10.Now I beseech you, brethren Hitherto he has handled the Corinthians mildly, because he knew that they were much too sensitive. Now, however, after preparing their minds for receiving correction, acting the part of a good and skillful surgeon, who soothes the wound when about to apply a painful remedy, he begins to handle them with more severity. Even here, however, as we shall still farther see, he uses great moderation. The sum is this: “It is my hope that the Lord has not in vain conferred upon you so many gifts, so as not to have it in view to bring you to salvation, but you ought at the same time to take heed lest graces so distinguished be polluted by your vices. See, then, that you be agreed among yourselves; and it is not without good reason that I call for agreement among yourselves, for I have been informed that you are in a state of disagreement, amounting even to hostility, and that there are parties and contentions raging among you, by which true unity of faith is torn asunder.” As, however, they might not perhaps be sufficiently aroused by mere exhortation, he uses earnest entreaty, for he adjures them, by the name of Christ,that, as they loved him, they should aim at promoting harmony.
That ye all speak the same thing In exhorting them to harmony, he employs three different forms of expression: for, in the first place, he requires such agreement among them that all shall have one voice; secondly, he takes away the evil by which unity is broken and torn asunder; and, thirdly, he unfolds the nature of true harmony, which is, that they be agreed among themselves in mind and will. What he has placed second is first in order, — that we beware of strifes. For from this a second thing will naturally follow, — that we be in harmony; and then at length a third thing will follow, which is here mentioned first, — that we all speak, as it were, with one mouth; a thing exceedingly desirable as a fruit of Christian harmony. Let us then observe, that nothing is more inconsistent on the part of Christians than to be at variance among themselves, for it is the main article of our religion that we be in harmony among ourselves; and farther, on such agreement the safety of the Church rests and is dependent.
But let us see what he requires as to Christian unity. If any one is desirous of nice distinctions — he would have them first of all joined together in one mind;secondly, in one judgment; and, thirdly, he would have them declare in words that agreement. As, however, my rendering differs somewhat from that of Erasmus, I would, in passing, call my readers to observe, that Paul here makes use of a participle, which denotes things that are fitly and suitably joined together. For the verb καταρτιζεσθαι itself (from which the participle κατηρτισμένος comes) properly signifies, to be fitted and adjusted, just as the members of the human body are connected together by a most admirable symmetry.
For sententia(judgment) Paul has γνώμην: but I understand it here as denoting the will, so that there is a complete division of the soul, and the first clause refers to faith, the second to love. Then only will there be Christian unity among us, when there is not merely a good agreement as to doctrine, but we are also in harmony in our affections and dispositions, and are thus in all respects of one mind. Thus Luke bears witness to believers in the primitive Church, (Act_2:46,) that they had “one heart and one soul.” And without doubt this will be found wherever the Spirit of Christ reigns. When, however, he exhorts them to speak the same thing, he intimates still more fully from the effect, how complete the agreement ought to be — so that no diversity may appear even in words. It is difficult, indeed, of attainment, but still it is necessary among Christians, from whom there is required not merely one faith, but also one confession.
Now I beseech you, brethren – The apostle having finished his introduction comes to his second point, exhorting them to abstain from dissensions, that they might be of the same heart and mind, striving together for the hope of the Gospel.
By the name of our Lord Jesus – By his authority, and in his place; and on account of your infinite obligations to his mercy in calling you into such a state of salvation.
That ye all speak the same thing – If they did not agree exactly in opinion on every subject, they might, notwithstanding, agree in the words which they used to express their religious faith. The members of the Church of God should labor to be of the same mind, and to speak the same thing, in order to prevent divisions, which always hinder the work of God. On every essential doctrine of the Gospel all genuine Christians agree: why then need religious communion be interrupted? This general agreement is all that the apostle can have in view; for it cannot be expected that any number of men should in every respect perfectly coincide in their views of all the minor points, on which an exact conformity in sentiment is impossible to minds so variously constituted as those of the human race. Angels may thus agree, who see nothing through an imperfect or false medium; but to man this is impossible. Therefore men should bear with each other, and not be so ready to imagine that none have the truth of God but they and their party.
Now I beseech you, brethren – In this verse the apostle enters on the discussion respecting the irregularities and disorders in the church at Corinth, of which he had incidentally heard; see 1Co_1:11. The first of which he had incidentally learned, was that which pertained to the divisions and strifes which had arisen in the church. The consideration of this subject occupies him to 1Co_1:17; and as those divisions had been caused by the influence of philosophy, and the ambition for distinction, and the exhibition of popular eloquence among the Corinthian teachers, this fact gives occasion to him to discuss that subject at length 1Co_1:17-31; in which he shows that the gospel did not depend for its success on the reasonings of philosophy, or the persuasions of eloquence. This part of the subject he commences with the language of entreaty. “I beseech you, brethren” – the language of affectionate exhortation rather than of stern command. Addressing them as his brethren, as members of the same family with himself, he conjures them to take all proper measures to avoid the evils of schism and of strife.
By the name – By the authority of his name; or from reverence for him as the common Lord of all.
Of our Lord Jesus Christ – The reasons why Paul thus appeals to his name and authority here, may be the following:
(1) Christ should be regarded as the Supreme Head and Leader of all his church. It was improper, therefore, that the church should be divided into portions, and its different parts enlisted under different banners.
(2) “the whole family in heaven and earth should be named” after him Eph_3:15, and should not be named after inferior and subordinate teachers. The reference to “the venerable and endearing name of Christ here, stands beautifully and properly opposed to the various human names under which they were so ready to enlist themselves” – Doddridge. “There is scarcely a word or expression that he (Paul) makes use of, but with relation and tendency to his present main purpose; as here, intending to abolish the names of leaders they had distinguished themselves by, he beseeches them by the name of Christ, a form that I do not remember he elsewhere uses” – Locke.
(3) the prime and leading thing which Christ had enjoined upon his church was union and mutual love Joh_13:34; Joh_15:17, and for this he had most earnestly prayed in his memorable prayer; Joh_17:21-23. It was well for Paul thus to appeal to the name of Christ – the sole Head and Lord of his church, and the friend of union, and thus to rebuke the divisions and strifes which had arisen at Corinth.
That ye all speak the same thing – “That ye hold the same doctrine” – Locke. This exhortation evidently refers to their holding and expressing the same religious sentiments, and is designed to rebuke that kind of contention and strife which is evinced where different opinions are held and expressed. To “speak the same thing” stands opposed to speaking different and conflicting things; or to controversy, and although perfect uniformity of opinion cannot be expected among people on the subject of religion any more than on other subjects, yet on the great and fundamental doctrines of Christianity, Christians may be agreed; on all points in which they differ they may evince a good spirit; and on all subjects they may express their sentiments in the language of the Bible, and thus “speak the same thing.”
And that there be no divisions among you – Greek, σχίσματα schismata, “schisms.” No divisions into contending parties and sects. The church was to be regarded as one and indivisible, and not to be rent into different factions, and ranged under the banners of different leaders; compare Joh_9:16; 1Co_11:18; 1Co_12:25.
But that ye be perfectly joined together – ητε δὲ κατηρτισμένοι ete de katertismenoi. The word used here and rendered “perfectly joined together,” denotes properly to restore, mend, or repair that; which is rent or disordered Mat_4:21; Mar_1:19, to amend or correct that which is morally evil and erroneous Gal_6:1, to render perfect or complete Luk_6:40, to fit or adapt anything to its proper place so that it shall be complete in all its parts, and harmonious, Heb_11:5; and thence to compose and settle controversies, to produce harmony and order. The apostle here evidently desires that they should be united in feeling; that every member of the church should occupy his appropriate place, as every member of a well proportioned body, or part of a machine has its appropriate place and use; see his wishes more fully expressed in 1Co. 12:12-31.
In the same mind – νοὶ noi; see Rom_15:5. This cannot mean that they were to be united in precisely the same shades of opinion, which is impossible – but that their minds were to be disposed toward each other with mutual good will, and that they should live in harmony. The word here rendered “mind,” denotes not merely the intellect itself, but that which is in the mind – the thoughts, counsels, plans; Rom_11:34; Rom_14:5; 1Co_2:16; Col_2:18. Bretschneider.
And in the same judgment – γνώμη gnome. This word properly denotes science, or knowledge; opinion, or sentiment; and sometimes, as here, the purpose of the mind, or will. The sentiment of the whole is, that in their understandings and their volitions, they should be united and kindly disposed toward each other. Union of feeling is possible even where people differ much in their views of things. They may love each other much, even where they do not see alike. They may give each other credit for honesty and sincerity, and may be willing to suppose that others “may be right,” and “are honest” even where their own views differ. The foundation of Christian union is not so much laid in uniformity of intellectual perception as in right feelings of the heart. And the proper way to produce union in the church of God, is not to begin by attempting to equalize all intellects on the bed of Procrustes, but to produce supreme love to God, and elevated and pure Christian love to all who bear the image and the name of the Redeemer.
I beseech (παρακαλω)
See on consolation, Luk_6:24. The word occurs more than one hundred times in the New Testament.
See on Joh_10:19. In classical Greek used only of actual rents in material. So in Mat_9:16; Mar_2:21. In the sense of discord, see Joh_7:43; Joh_9:16; Joh_10:19. Here, faction, for which the classical word is στάσις: division within the christian community. The divisions of the Corinthian church arose on questions of marriage and food (1Co_7:3, 1Co_7:5, 1Co_7:12); on eating, meat offered to idols (1Co_8:7; 1Co_10:20); on the comparative value of spiritual endowments, such as speaking with “tongues” (14) ; on the privileges and demeanor of women in the assemblies for worship (1Co_11:5-15); on the relations of the rich and the poor in the agape or love-feasts (1Co_11:17-22); and on the prerogatives of the different christian teachers (1Co_1:12, 1Co_1:13; 3:3-22).
Perfectly joined together (κατηρτισμένοι)
Rev., perfected together. See on Mat_21:16; see on Luk_6:40; see on 1Pe_5:10. Carrying on the metaphor in divisions. Not of individual and absolute perfection, but of perfection in the unity of the Church.
See on Rom_7:23.
See on Rev_17:13. The distinction between mind and judgment is not between theoretical and practical, since νους mind, includes the practical reason, while γνώμη judgment, has a theoretical side. Rather between understanding and opinion; νους regarding the thing from the side of the subject, γνώμη from the side of the object. Being in the same realm of thought, they would judge questions from the same christian stand-point, and formulate their judgment accordingly.
Now I beseech you (parakalo de humas). Old and common verb, over 100 times in N.T., to call to one’s side. Corresponds here to eucharisto, I thank, in 1Co_1:4. Direct appeal after the thanksgiving.
Through the name (dia tou onomatos). Genitive, not accusative (cause or reason), as the medium or instrument of the appeal (2Co_10:1; Rom_12:1; Rom_15:30).
That (hina). Purport (sub-final) rather than direct purpose, common idiom in Koinéš (Robertson, Grammar, pp.991-4) like Mat_14:36. Used here with legēte, ēi, ēte katērtismenoi, though expressed only once.
All speak (legete pantes). Present active subjunctive, that ye all keep on speaking. With the divisions in mind. An idiom from Greek political life (Lightfoot). This touch of the classical writers argues for Paul’s acquaintance with Greek culture.
There be no divisions among you (me ei en humin schismata). Present subjunctive, that divisions may not continue to be (they already had them). Negative statement of preceding idea. Schisma is from schizō, old word to split or rend, and so means a rent (Mat_9:16; Mar_2:21). Papyri use it for a splinter of wood and for ploughing. Here we have the earliest instance of its use in a moral sense of division, dissension, see also 1Co_11:18 where a less complete change than haireseis; 1Co_12:25; Joh_7:43 (discord); Joh_9:16; Joh_10:19. “Here, faction, for which the classical word is stasis: division within the Christian community” (Vincent). These divisions were over the preachers (1:12-4:21), immorality (1Co_5:1-13), going to law before the heathen (1Co_6:1-11), marriage (7:1-40), meats offered to idols (1 Corinthians 8-10), conduct of women in church (11:1-16), the Lord’s Supper (11:17-34), spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12-14), the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15).
But that ye be perfected together (ete de katertismenoi). Periphrastic perfect passive subjunctive. See this verb in Mat_4:21 (Mar_1:19) for mending torn nets and in moral sense already in 1Th_3:10. Galen uses it for a surgeon’s mending a joint and Herodotus for composing factions. See 2Co_13:11; Gal_6:1.
Mind (noi), judgment (gnomei). “Of these words nous denotes the frame or state of mind, gnome the judgment, opinion or sentiment, which is the outcome of nous” (Lightfoot).
21. For since the world knew not.The right order of things was assuredly this, that man, contemplating the wisdom of God in his works, by the light of the understanding furnished him by nature, might arrive at an acquaintance with him. As, however, this order of things has been reversed through man’s depravity, God designs in the first place to make us see ourselves to be fools, before he makes us wise unto salvation, (2Ti_3:15;) and secondly, as a token of his wisdom, he presents to us what has some appearance of folly. This inversion of the order of things the ingratitude of mankind deserved. By the wisdom of God he means the workmanship of the whole world, which is an illustrious token and clear manifestation of his wisdom: God therefore presents before us in his creatures a bright mirror of his admirable wisdom, so that every one that looks upon the world, and the other works of God, must of necessity break forth in admiration of him, if he has a single spark of sound judgment. If men were guided to a right knowledge of God by the contemplation of his works, they would know God in the exercise of wisdom, or by a natural and proper method of acquiring wisdom; but as the whole world gained nothing in point of instruction from the circumstance, that God had exhibited his wisdom in his creatures, he then resorted to another method for instructing men. Thus it must be reckoned as our own fault, that we do not attain a saving acquaintance with God, before we have been emptied of our own understanding.
He makes a concession when he calls the gospel the foolishness of preaching, having that appearance in the view of those foolish sages (μωροσόφοις) who, intoxicated with false confidence, fear not to subject God’s sacred truth to their senseless criticism. And indeed in another point of view nothing is more absurd in the view, of human reason than to hear that God has become mortal — that life has been subjected to death — that righteousness has been veiled under the appearance of sin — and that the source of blessing has been made subject to the curse, that by this means men might be redeemed from death, and become partakers of a blessed immortality — that they might obtain life — that, sin being destroyed, righteousness might reign — and that death and the curse might be swallowed up. We know, nevertheless, in the meantime, that the gospel is the hidden wisdom, (1Co_2:7,) which in its height surmounts the heavens, and at which angels themselves stand amazed. Here we have a most beautiful passage, from which we may see how great is the blindness of the human mind, which in the midst of light discerns nothing. For it is true, that this world is like a theater, in which the Lord presents to us a clear manifestation of his glory, and yet, notwithstanding that we have such a spectacle placed before our eyes, we are stone-blind, not because the manifestation is furnished obscurely, but because we are alienated in mind, (Col_1:21,) and for this matter we lack not merely inclination but ability. For notwithstanding that God shows himself openly, it is only with the eye of faith that we can behold him, save only that we receive a slight perception of his divinity, sufficient to render us inexcusable.
Accordingly, when Paul here declares that God is not known through means of his creatures, you must understand him to mean that a pure knowledge of him is not attained. For that none may have any pretext for ignorance, mankind make proficiency in the universal school of nature; so far as to be affected with some perception of deity, but what God is, they know not, nay more, they straightway become vain in their imaginations, (Rom_1:21.) Thus the light shineth in darkness, (Joh_1:5.) It follows, then, that mankind do not err thus far through mere ignorance, so as not to be chargeable with contempt, negligence, and ingratitude. Thus it holds good, that all have known God, and yet have not glorified him,(Rom_1:21,) and that, on the other hand, no one under the guidance of mere nature ever made such proficiency as to know God. Should any one bring forward the philosophers as exceptions, I answer, that in them more especially there is presented a signal token of this our weakness.For there will not be found one of them, that has not from that first principle of knowledge, which I have mentioned, straightway turned aside into wandering and erroneous speculations, and for the most part they betray a silliness worse than that of old wives. When he says, that those are saved that believe, this corresponds with the foregoing statement — that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation. Farther, by contrasting believers, whose number is small, with a blind and senseless world, he teaches us that we err if we stumble at the smallness of their number, inasmuch as they have been divinely set apart to salvation.
For after that in the wisdom of God: some here, by the wisdom of God, understand Jesus Christ, and make the sense thus: When he who is the Wisdom of God came and preached to the world. Others understand the gospel, which is so called, 1Co_1:24, and 1Co_2:7. But I take the wisdom of God in this text to signify the wise administrations of Divine Providence in the government of the world to his wise ends.
The world by wisdom knew not God; the unregenerate part of the world would not come to a knowledge of and an acquaintance with God, in that way whereby he chose to reveal himself in and through Jesus Christ, as to which they were hindered by their own reasonings and knowledge, and apprehended skill in things, and capacity to comprehend them.
It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe; it pleased God to institute the great ordinance of preaching the gospel, which they count foolishness, as the sacred means by which he would bring all those that give credit to the revelation of it, and receive Christ held forth in it, to eternal life and salvation.
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
after that — rather, “whereas.”
in the wisdom of God — in the wise arrangement of God.
world by wisdom — rather, “by its wisdom,” or “its philosophy” (Joh_1:10; Rom_1:28).
knew not God — whatever other knowledge it attained (Act_17:23, Act_17:27). The deistic theory that man can by the light of nature discover his duty to God, is disproved by the fact that man has never discovered it without revelation. All the stars and moon cannot make it day; that is the prerogative of the sun. Nor can nature’s highest gifts make the moral day arise; that is the office of Christ. Even the Jew missed this knowledge, in so far as he followed after mere carnal world wisdom.
it pleased God — Paul refers to Jesus’ words (Luk_10:21).
by the foolishness of preaching — by that preaching which the world (unbelieving Jews and Gentiles alike) deem foolishness.
save them that believe — (Rom_1:16).
For after that – επειδὴ epeide. Since, or seeing that it is true that the world by wisdom knew not God. After all the experience of the world it was ascertained that human beings would never by their own wisdom come to the true knowledge of God, and it pleased him to devise another plan for salvation.
In the wisdom of God – This phrase is susceptible of two interpretations:
(1) The first makes it refer to “the wisdom of God” evinced in the works of creation – the demonstration of his existence and attributes found there, and, according to that, the apostle means to say, that the world by a survey of the works of God did not know him; or were, notwithstanding those works, in deep darkness. This interpretation is adopted by most commentators – by Lightfoot, Rosenmuller, Grotius, Calvin, etc. According to this interpretation, the word εν en (in) is to be translated “by” or “through.”
(2) a second interpretation makes it refer to the wise arrangement or government of God, by which this was permitted. “For when, by the wise arrangement or government of God; after a full and fair trial of the native, unaided powers of man, it was ascertained that the true knowledge of God would not be arrived at by man, it pleased him,” etc. This appears to be the correct interpretation, because it is the most obvious one, and because it suits the connection best. It is, according to this, a reason why God introduced a new method of saving people. This may be said to have been accomplished by a plan of God, which was wise, because:
(1) It was desirable that the powers of man should be fully tried before the new plan was introduced, in order to show that it was not dependent on human wisdom, that it was not originated by man, and that there was really need of such an interposition.
(2) because sufficient time had been furnished to make the experiment. An opportunity had been given for four thousand years, and still it had failed.
(3) because the experiment had been made in the most favorable circumstances. The human faculties had had time to ripen and expand; one generation had had an opportunity of profiting by the observation of its predecessor; and the most mighty minds had been brought to boar on the subject. If the sages of the east, and the profound philosophers of the west, had not been able to come to the true knowledge of God, it was in vain to hope that more profound minds could be brought to bear on it, or that more careful investigation would be bestowed on it. The experiment had been fairly made, and the result was before the world; see the notes at Rom. 1.
The world – The people of the world; particularly the philosophers of the world.
By wisdom – By their own wisdom, or by the united investigations of the works of nature.
Knew not God – Obtained not a true knowledge of him. Some denied his existence; some represented him under the false and abominable forms of idol worship; some ascribed to him horrid attributes; all showed that they had no true acquaintance with a God of purity, with a God who could pardon sin, or whose worship conduced to holiness of life; see the notes at Rom. 1.
It pleased God – God was disposed, or well pleased. The plan of salvation originated in his good pleasure, and was such as his wisdom approved. God chose this plan, so unlike all the plans of human beings.
By the foolishness of preaching – Not “by foolish preaching,” but by the preaching of the cross, which was regarded as foolish and absurd by the people of the world. The plan is wise, but it has been esteemed by the mass of people, and was particularly so esteemed by the Greek philosophers, to be egregiously foolish and ridiculous; see the note at 1Co_1:18.
To save them that believe – That believe in the Lord Jesus Christ; see the note at Mar_16:16. This was the speciality and essence of the plan of God, and this has appeared to the mass of people to be a plan devoid of wisdom and unworthy of God. The preaching of the cross which is thus esteemed foolishness, is made the means of saving them, because it sets forth God’s only plan of mercy, and states the way in which lost sinners may become reconciled to God.
After that (επειδὴ)
Rev., correctly, seeing that.
By wisdom (διὰ της σοφιας)
Better, as Rev., giving the force of the article, “through its wisdom.”
Not the act, but the substance of preaching. Compare 1Co_1:23.
To save (σωσαι)
The word was technically used in the Old Testament of deliverance at the Messiah’s coming; of salvation from the penalties of the messianic judgment, or from the evils which obstruct the messianic deliverance. See Joe_2:32; Mat_1:21; compare Act_2:40. Paul uses it in the ethical sense, to make one a partaker of the salvation which is through Christ. Edwards calls attention to the foregleam of this christian conception of the word in the closing paragraph of Plato’s “Republic:” “And thus, Glaucon, the tale has been saved, and has not perished, and will save (σώσειεν) us if we are obedient to the word spoken, and we shall pass safely over the river of forgetfulness and our soul will not be defiled.”
Seeing that (epeide). Since (epei and de) with explanatory gar.
Through its wisdom (dia tes sophias). Article here as possessive. The two wisdoms contrasted.
Knew not God (ouk egno). Failed to know, second aorist (effective) active indicative of ginosko, solemn dirge of doom on both Greek philosophy and Jewish theology that failed to know God. Has modern philosophy done better? There is today even a godless theology (Humanism). “Now that God’s wisdom has reduced the self-wise world to ignorance” (Findlay).
Through the foolishness of the preaching (dia tes morias tou kerugmatos). Perhaps “proclamation” is the idea, for it is not keruxis, the act of heralding, but kerugma, the message heralded or the proclamation as in 1Co_1:23. The metaphor is that of the herald proclaiming the approach of the king (Mat_3:1; Mat_4:17). See also kerugma in 1Co_2:4; 2Ti_4:17. The proclamation of the Cross seemed foolishness to the wiseacres then (and now), but it is consummate wisdom, God’s wisdom and good-pleasure (eudokesan). The foolishness of preaching is not the preaching of foolishness.
To save them that believe (sosai tous pisteuontas). This is the heart of God’s plan of redemption, the proclamation of salvation for all those who trust Jesus Christ on the basis of his death for sin on the Cross. The mystery-religions all offered salvation by initiation and ritual as the Pharisees did by ceremonialism. Christianity reaches the heart directly by trust in Christ as the Saviour. It is God’s wisdom.
22.For the Jews require a sign This is explanatory of the preceding statement — showing in what respects the preaching of the gospel is accounted foolishness. At the same time he does not simply explain, but even goes a step farther, by saying that the Jews do not merely despise the gospel, but even abhor it. “The Jews,” says he, “desire through means of miracles to have before their eyes an evidence of divine power: the Greeks are fond of what tends to gratify human intellect by the applause of acuteness. We,on the other hand, preach Christ crucified, wherein there appears at first view nothing but weakness and folly. He is, therefore, a stumbling block to the Jews,when they see him as it were forsaken by God. To the Greeks it appears like a fable, to be told of such a method of redemption.” By the term Greeks here, in my opinion, he does not mean simply Gentiles, but has in view those who had the polish of the liberal sciences, or were distinguished by superior intelligence. At the same time by synecdoche, all the others come in like manner to be included. Between Jews and Greeks, however, he draws this distinction, that the former, striking against Christ by an unreasonable zeal for the law, raged against the gospel with unbounded fury, as hypocrites are wont to do, when contending for their superstitions; while the Greeks, on the other hand, puffed up with pride, regarded him with contempt as insipid.
When he ascribes it to the Jews as a fault, that they are eagerly desirous of signs, it is not on the ground of its being wrong in itself to demand signs, but he exposes their baseness in the following respects: — that by an incessant demand for miracles, they in a manner sought to bind God to their laws — that, in accordance with the dullness of their apprehension, they sought as it were to feel him out in manifest miracles — that they were taken up with the miracles themselves, and looked upon them with amazement — and, in fine, that no miracles satisfied them, but instead of this, they every day gaped incessantly for new ones. Hezekiah is not reproved for having of his own accord allowed himself to be confirmed by a sign, (2Kg_19:29, and 2Kg_20:8,) nor even Gideon for asking a two-fold sign, (Jud_6:37.) Nay, instead of this, Ahaz is condemned for refusing a sign that the Prophet had offered him, (Isa_7:12.) What fault, then, was there on the part of the Jews in asking miracles? It lay in this, that they did not ask them for a good end, set no bounds to their desire, and did not make a right use of them. For while faith ought to be helped by miracles, their only concern was, how long they might persevere in their unbelief. While it is unlawful to prescribe laws to God, they wantoned with inordinate desire. While miracles should conduct us to an acquaintance with Christ, and the spiritual grace of God, they served as a hindrance in their way. On this account, too, Christ upbraids them, (Mar_8:12.) A perverse generation seeketh after a sign.For there were no bounds to their curiosity and inordinate desire, and for all that they had so often obtained miracles, no advantage appeared to arise from them.
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
For — literally, “Since,” seeing that. This verse illustrates how the “preaching” of Christ crucified came to be deemed “foolishness” (1Co_1:21).
a sign — The oldest manuscripts read “signs.” The singular was a later correction from Mat_12:38; Mat_16:1; Joh_2:18. The signs the Jews craved for were not mere miracles, but direct tokens from heaven that Jesus was Messiah (Luk_11:16).
Greeks seek … wisdom — namely, a philosophic demonstration of Christianity. Whereas Christ, instead of demonstrative proof, demands faith on the ground of His word, and of a reasonable amount of evidence that the alleged revelation is His word. Christianity begins not with solving intellectual difficulties, but with satisfying the heart that longs for forgiveness. Hence not the refined Greeks, but the theocratic Jews were the chosen organ for propagating revelation. Again, intellectual Athens (Act_17:18-21, etc.) received the Gospel less readily than commercial Corinth.
For the Jews require a sign – A miracle, a prodigy, an evidence of divine interposition. This was the characteristic of the Jewish people. God had manifested himself to them by miracles and wonders in a remarkable manner in past times, and they greatly prided themselves on that fact, and always demanded it when any new messenger came to them, professing to be sent from God. This propensity they often evinced in their contact with the Lord Jesus; Mat_12:38; Mat_16:1; Mar_8:11; Luk_11:16; Luk_12:54-56. Many mss., instead of “sign” here in the singular, read “signs” in the plural; and Griesbach has introduced that reading into the text. The sense is nearly the same, and it means that it was a characteristic of the Jews to demand the constant exhibition of miracles and wonders; and it is also implied here, I think, by the reasoning of the apostle, that they believed that the communication of such signs to them as a people, would secure their salvation, and they therefore despised the simple preaching of a crucified Messiah. They expected a Messiah that should come with the exhibition of some stupendous signs and wonders from heaven (Mat_12:38, etc., as above); they looked for the displays of amazing power in his coming, and they anticipated that he would deliver them from their enemies by mere power; and they, therefore, were greatly offended 1Co_1:23, by the simple doctrine of a crucified Messiah.
And the Greeks … – Perhaps this means the pagan in general, in opposition to the Jews; see the note at Rom_1:16. It was, however, especially the characteristic of the Greek philosophers. They seek for schemes of philosophy and religion that shall depend on human wisdom, and they therefore despise the gospel.
Omit the article. Among the Jews many had become Christians.
Rev., ask. But it is questionable whether the A.V. is not preferable. The word sometimes takes the sense of demand, as Luk_12:48; 1Pe_3:15; and this sense accords well with the haughty attitude of the Jews, demanding of all apostolic religions their proofs and credentials. See Mat_12:38; Mat_16:1; Joh_6:30.
See on Act_6:1.
Seek after (ζητουσιν)
Appropriate to the Greeks in contrast with the Jews. The Jews claimed to possess the truth: the Greeks were seekers, speculators (compare Act_17:23) after what they called by the general name of wisdom.
Christ crucified (Χριστον εσταυρωμενον)
Not the crucified Christ, but Christ as crucified, not a sign-shower nor a philosopher; and consequently a scandal to the Jew and folly to the Gentile.
Unto the Greeks (Ελλησι)
The correct reading is εθνεσιν to the Gentiles. So Rev. Though Έλληνες Greeks, is equivalent to Gentiles in the New Testament when used in antithesis to Jews, yet in this passage Paul seems to have in mind the Greeks as representing gentile wisdom and culture.
1 Cor 1:23.—Into the Jews a stumbling-block, and unto the Greeks foolishness. Notice here, with S. Chrysostom (Hom. iv. moral in loco, and above on ver.17), that the power of the Cross shines forth not only in itself but also in its preaching: (1.) In the fact that the Apostles, few in number, simple fishermen, poor, unlearned, unknown, and Jews, in all these respects hateful to the world, yet brought the world into subjection to the Cross. (2.) In the fact that they subdued most bitter enemies, demons, sin, death, hell, kings, princes, philosophers, orators, Greeks, barbarians, laws, judgments. Long-existing religions, and time-honoured traditions. (3.) In that they persuaded men by simple preaching, and not by arms, wisdom, or eloquence. (4.) In that in so short a time they spread the faith of Christ over the whole world. (5.) In that by the grace of Christ they overcame most cheerfully and courageously what is hardest to be borne by the natural strength of man, the threats of tyrants, scourgings, deaths, and tortures. (6.) In that they preached a doctrine not about a glorious God, but a crucified One, and Him their Saviour to be believed in and adored; and a law of Christ displeasing to nature and flesh. Wherefore Tertullian (lib. contra Jud.) beautifully and fitly compares the Kingdom of Christ with the kingdoms of all kings and people, and prefers it before them all: “Solomon,” he says, “reigned, but only in the borders of Judæa from Dan to Beersheba: Darius reigned over the Babylonians and Parthians, but not further; Pharaoh reigned over the Egyptians, but over them only. The kingdom of Nebuchadnezzar stretched only from India to Ethiopia. Alexander of Macedon, after subduing all Asia and other countries, could not keep what he had conquered. So have the Germans, Britons, Moors, and Romans bounds set to their dominions. But the kingdom of Christ has reached to all parts, His name is believed on everywhere, is worshipped by all nations, everywhere reigns, is everywhere adored; He is equal to all, King over all, Judge over all, God and Lord of all.”
24.Both Greeks and Jews He shows by this contrast, that the fact that Christ was so unfavorably received, was not owing to any fault on his part, nor to the natural disposition of mankind generally, but arose from the depravity of those who were not enlightened by God, inasmuch as the elect of God, whether Jews or Gentiles, are not hindered by any stumbling block from coming to Christ, that they may find in him a sure salvation. He contrasts power with the stumbling block, that was occasioned by abasement, and wisdom he contrasts with folly. The sum, then, is this: — “I am aware that nothing except signs has effect upon the obstinacy of the Jews, and that nothing soothes down the haughtiness of the Greeks, except an empty show of wisdom. We ought, however, to make no account of this; because, however our Christ in connection with the abasement of his cross is a stumbling block to the Jews, and is derided by the Greeks, he is, notwithstanding, to all the elect, of whatever nation they may be, at once the power of God unto salvation for surmounting these stumbling blocks, and the wisdom of God for throwing off that mask.”
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown 1Co 1:24
called — (compare 1Co_1:26). The same class as the “us which are (being) saved” (1Co_1:18); the elect, who have obeyed the call; called effectually (Rom_8:28, Rom_8:30).
Christ — “Crucified” is not here added, because when the offense of the cross is overcome, “Christ” is received in all His relations, not only in His cross, but in His life and His future kingdom.
power — so meeting all the reasonable requirements of the Jews who sought “a sign.” The cross (the death of a slave), which to the Jews (looking for a temporal Messiah) was a “stumbling-block,” is really “the power of God” to the salvation of all who believe.
wisdom of God — so really exhibiting, and in the highest degree (if they would but see it), that which the Greeks sought after – wisdom (Col_2:3).
1Co 1:24 But to them that are called – And obey the heavenly calling. Christ – With his cross, his death, his life, his kingdom. And they experience, first, that he is the power, then, that he is the wisdom, of God.
But unto them which are called – To all true Christians. See the note at 1Co_1:9.
Both Jews and Greeks – Whether originally of Jewish or Gentile extraction, they have here a common, similar view of the crucified Saviour.
Christ the power of God – Christ appears to them as the power of God; or it is through him that the power of salvation is communicated to them. See the note at 1Co_1:18.
And the wisdom of God – The way in which God evinces his wisdom in the salvation of people. They see the plan to be wise. They see that it is adapted to the end. They see it to be suited to procure pardon, and sanctification, and eternal life. It is God’s wise plan for the salvation of people; and it is seen by those who are Christians, to be adapted to this end. They see that there is a beauty in his character; an excellency in his doctrines; and an efficacy in his atonement, to secure their salvation. – We may remark on this verse:
(1) That when people become Christians, their hearts are changed. The views of Christians are here represented as diametrically opposite to those of other people. To one class, Christ is a stumbling-block; to others, folly; to Christians he is full of beauty. But those views of the Christian, can be obtained only by a change of heart. And the change from regarding an object or being as foolishness to regarding it as full of beauty, must be a radical and a mighty change.
(2) all Christians have similar views of the Saviour. It matters not whether they were Jew or Greek; it matters not whether they were born in a northern or southern clime – “whether an Indian or an African sun has burned upon them;” whether they speak the same or different languages; whether they were born amidst the same or different denominations of Christians; whether in the same or different countries; or whether they are people in the same or different Christian communities, they have the same views of the Saviour. They see him to be the power and the wisdom of God. They are united in him, and therefore united to each other; and should regard themselves as belonging to the same family, and as bound to the same eternal home.
(3) there is real efficacy in the plan of salvation. It is a scheme of power. It is adapted to the end, and is admirably suited to accomplish the great effects which God designs to accomplish. It is not a scheme intended to show its own imbecility, and the need of another and an independent agent to accomplish the work. All the effects which the Holy Spirit produces on the soul, are such, and only such, as the truth of the gospel is adapted to produce in the mind. The gospel is God’s plan of putting forth power to save people. It seizes upon great elements in human nature; and is adapted to enlist them in the service of God. It is just suited to man as a being capable of reasoning and susceptible of emotion; as a being who maybe influenced by hope and fear; who may be excited and impelled to duty by conscience, and who may be roused from a state of lethargy and sin by the prospect of eternal life, and the apprehension of eternal death. “As such” it should always be preached – as a system “wise,” and “adapted” to the great end in view, as a system most powerful and “mighty to the pulling down of strong holds.”
25.For the foolishness of God While the Lord deals with us in such a way as to seem to act foolishly, because he does not exhibit his wisdom, what appears foolishness surpasses in wisdom all the ingenuity of men. Farther, while God appears to act with weakness, in consequence of his concealing his power, that weakness, as it is reckoned, is stronger than any power of men. We must, however, always keep it in view, that there is a concession, as I have noticed a little ago. For no one can but perceive, that in strict propriety neither foolishness nor weakness can be ascribed to God, but it was necessary, by such ironical expressions, to beat down the mad presumption of the flesh, which does not scruple to rob God of all his glory.
Because the foolishness of God – That which God appoints, requires, commands, does, etc., which appears to people to be foolish. The passage is not to be understood as affirming that it is really foolish or unwise; but that it appears so to people – Perhaps the apostle here refers to those parts of the divine administration where the wisdom of the plan is not seen; or where the reason of what God does is concealed.
Is wiser than men – Is better adapted to accomplish important ends, and more certainly effectual than the schemes of human wisdom. This is especially true of the plan of salvation – a plan apparently foolish to the mass of people – yet indubitably accomplishing more for the renewing of people, and for their purity and happiness, than all the schemes of human contrivance. They have accomplished nothing toward people’s salvation; this accomplishes everything. They have always failed; this never fails.
The weakness of God – There is really no weakness in God, any more than there is folly. This must mean, therefore, the things of his appointment which appear weak and insufficient to accomplish the end.
Such are these facts – that God should seek to save the world by Jesus of Nazareth, Who was supposed unable to save himself Mat_27:40-43; and that he should expect to save people by the gospel, by its being preached by people who were without learning, eloquence, wealth, fame, or power. The instruments were feeble; and people judged that this was owing to the weakness or lack of power in the God who appointed them.
Is stronger than men – Is able to accomplish more than the utmost might of man. The feeblest agency that God puts forth – so feeble as to be esteemed weakness – is able to effect more than the utmost might of man. The apostle here refers particularly to the work of redemption; but it is true everywhere. We may remark:
(1) That God often effects his mightiest plans by that which seems to men to be weak and even foolish. The most mighty revolutions arise often from the slightest causes; his most vast operations are often connected with very feeble means. The revolution of empires; the mighty effects of the pestilence; the advancement in the sciences, and arts, and the operations of nature, are often brought about by means apparently as little suited to accomplish the work as those which are employed in the plan of redemption.
(2) God is great. If his feeblest powers put forth, surpass the mightiest powers of man, how great must be his might. If the powers of man who rears works of art; who levels mountains and elevates vales; if the power which reared the pyramids, be as nothing when compared with the feeblest putting forth of divine power, how mighty must be his arm! How vast that strength which made, and which upholds the rolling worlds! How safe are his people in his hand! And how easy for him to crush all his foes in death!
1Cor 1:25.—Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. That is, say Ambrose and Anselm, the foolishness and weakness of God, or what men think is the foolishness and weakness in God and in Christ incarnate and suffering, as e.g., His humanity, morality, Passion and Cross, was just that by which Christ, when seemingly conquered, yet most wisely and most powerfully conquered men, Satan, and the whole world. In other words, God’s wisdom and strength by what was foolish and weak, viz., the Cross. And therefore Jerome and S. Augustine explain the passage of Habakkuk (iii. 4) “He had horns coming out of His hands,” thus: The strength and weapons by which, as by horns, Christ slew His foes were the arms of the Cross to which the hands of Christ ere nailed. Hence it is that the cross in the sky appeared to Constantine the Great as he was going to battle against Maxentius, with the inscription, “In this sign thou shalt conquer” (Euseb., Life of Constantine, lib. i. c. 22).
Literally and morally the power and wisdom of the Cross are seen (1.) in that on the Cross God showed His supreme love to us, that so He might draw us to Him; for God, under no necessity, with no prospect of advantage to Himself, of His own will stooped to the Cross from love of man, solely. This He yet did with such wisdom that no damage was dine by it to the loftiness and glory of His Godhead; for the Godhead in Him suffered nothing, but He bore all His suffering in the Manhood which He had assumed. (2.) In that on the Cross He redeemed man, not by the power of His Godhead, but through the righteousness and humility of His Passion, as S. Augustine says. (3.) In that on the Cross He set before us a most perfect example of obedience, constancy, endurance of punishment, patience, fortitude, and all virtues, as well as mortification of vices. (4.) In that on the Cross He condemned the wisdom and pride of the world, and gave to man, who had fallen through pride and self–indulgence, a mirror of life, viz., a mode of recovery through humility and the Cross. (See also S. Thomas. 3, p. qu. 46, art. 3 and 4, and S. Augustine, De Trin. lib. xiii. c. 12.)
S. Bernard, in his exhortation to the Soldiers of the Temple (c. 11), says: “The weakness of Christ was no less beneficial to us than His majesty; for although the power of His Godhead ordered the removal of the yoke of sin, yet the weakness of His flesh destroyed by death the rights of death over man. And therefore the Apostle beautifully says: ‘The weakness of God is stronger than men.’ But His foolishness by which He was pleased to save the world, so as to confound the wise; which made Him, though He was in the form of God and equal to God, empty Himself, and take upon Him the form of a servant; by which, though he was rich, He yet for our sake became poor, though He was great He became little, though he was high yet He became humbled, though He was powerful He became weak; through which He hungered, thirsted, and was weary on the journey, and suffered all that His own will and no necessity laid upon Him; this foolishness of His, was it not to us the way of prudence, the form of righteousness, the example of holiness? Therefore the Apostle also adds, ‘The foolishness of God is wiser than men.’ Death then set us free from death, life from error, grace from sin. And truly His death won the victory through His righteousness; because the Just One, by paying what he never took, rightly recovered all that He had lost.”
Hence it is that Francis and the greatest Saints have sought to be considered foolish by the world, in order that they might the rather please God. Some religious Orders, indeed, so regard this as the height of perfection and Christian wisdom that they enjoin their members to love, desire, and embrace contempt, ridicule, insults, and injuries, and to long to be considered fools, just as eagerly as worldly men seek for a reputation for wisdom, for honour, and renown. They do this to teach them in this way (1.) to utterly despise the world; (2.) to humiliate themselves and uproot their innate desire of honour, praise, glory, and high position; (3.) to be more like Christ, and to clothe themselves with His garments and His marks, who for our sakes, and to give us an example of virtue and perfection, chose these things Himself, willed to be considered foolish, and became a scorn of men, and the outcast of the people, They say, therefore, with S. Paul, “God forbid that I should glory save in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified to me and I to the world.”
All this does the Cross of Christ teach if you often meditate on it; nay, the Cross is the fount of wisdom. S. Bonaventura, when asked where he had drunk in so much wisdom, showed a crucifix almost worn away by kisses. S. Jacoponus, a man of good birth and of great learning, after having learned from the Cross of Christ to become foolish to the world, was asked by Christ, who appeared to him in a friendly and familiar way, why he was so enamoured of this foolishness, and he answered with his customary pious pleasantry, “Because Thou, Lord, hast been more foolish than I.” In short, S. Chrysostom (Hom. 4 on the Cross and the Robber) sums up the power and praise of the Cross as follows: “If you to know the power of the Cross, and what I have to say in its praise, listen: The Cross is the hope of Christians, the resurrection of the dead, the way of them that despair, the staff of the lame, the consolation of the poor, the curb of the rich, the destruction of the proud, the punishment of them that live badly, victory over the demons, subjection of the devil, the instructor of the young, nourishment of the needy, hope of the hopeless, the rudder of seafarers, haven to the storm–tossed, wall to the besieged, father to the fatherless, defender of widows, counsellor of the just, rest to the weary, guardian of little ones, head of men, end of the aged, light to them that sit in darkness, the magnificence of kings, an everlasting shield, wisdom of the foolish, liberty to the slaves, a philosophy for kings. law ro the lawless, the boast of martyrs, the self-denial monks, the chastity of virgins, the joy of priests, the foundation of the Church, the destruction of temples, the rejection of idols, a stumbling-block to the Jews, perdition to the ungodly, strength to the weak, physician to the sick, bread to the hungry, water to the thirsty, clothing to the naked.”
26.Behold your calling.As the mood of the Greek verb (βλέπετε) is doubtful, and the indicative suits the context equally as well as the imperative, I leave it to the reader’s choice which of them he may prefer. The meaning is manifestly the same in either case, for supposing it to be the indicative (ye see,) he would in that case summon them as witnesses — as of a thing that is manifest, and call them forward as it were to a thing that is present. On the other hand, understanding it in the imperative, he stirs them up, as it were, from their drowsiness to a consideration of the matter itself. The term calling may be taken in a collective sense to mean the multitude of those that are called — in this sense: “Ye see what description of persons they are among you that the Lord has called.” I am, however, rather inclined to think, that he points out the manner of their calling, and it is a most forcible argument, because it follows from this, that, if they despise the abasement of the cross, they in a manner make void their calling, in which God had acted in such a manner, as to take away all merit from human wisdom, and power, and glory. Hence he tacitly accuses them of ingratitude, because, forgetful alike of God’s grace and of themselves, they regard the gospel of Christ with disdain.
Two things, however, must be observed here — that he was desirous from the example of the Corinthians to confirm the truth of what he had said: and farther, that he designed to admonish them, that they must be entirely divested of pride, if they duly considered the order of things that the Lord had observed in their calling. To put to shame, says he, the wise and noble,and to bring to naught things that are. Both expressions are appropriate, for fortitude and wisdom vanish when they are put to shame, but what has an existence requires to be brought to naught. By the choosing of the poor, and the foolish, and the ignoble, he means, that God has preferred them before the great, and the wise, and the noble. For it would not have sufficed, for beating down the arrogance of the flesh, if God had placed them all upon a level. Hence, those who appeared to excel he put in the background, in order that he might thoroughly abase them. That man, however, were an arrant fool, who would infer from this, that God has in this manner abased the glory of the flesh, in order that the great and noble might be shut out from the hope of salvation. There are some foolish persons that make this a pretext for not merely triumphing over the great, as if God had cast them off, but even despising them as far beneath them. Let us, however, bear in mind, that this is said to the Corinthians, who, though they had no great distinction in the world, were nevertheless, even without any occasion, puffed up. God, therefore, by confounding the mighty, and the wise, and the great, does not design to elate with pride the weak, the illiterate, and the abject, but brings down all of them together to one level. Let those, therefore, that are contemptible in the eyes of the world, think thus with themselves: “What modesty is called for on our part, when even those that have high honor in the view of the world have nothing left them?” If the effulgence of the sun is obscured, what must become of the stars? If the light of the stars is extinguished, what must become of opaque objects?” The design of these observations is, that those who have been called by the Lord, while of no estimation in the view of the world, may not abuse these words of Paul by pluming their crests, but, on the contrary, keeping in mind the exhortation — Thou standest by faith, be not high-minded, but fear, (Rom_11:20,) may walk thoughtfully in the sight of God with fear and humility.
Paul, however, does not say here, that there are none of the noble and mighty that have been called by God, but that there are few He states the design of this — that the Lord might bring down the glory of the flesh, by preferring the contemptible before the great. God himself, however, by the mouth of David, exhorts kings to embrace Christ, (Psa_2:12,) and by the mouth of Paul, too, he declares, that he will have all men to be saved, and that his Christ is offered alike to small and great, alike to kings and their subjects, (1Ti_2:1.) He has himself furnished a token of this. Shepherds, in the first place, are called to Christ: then afterwards come philosophers: illiterate and despised fishermen hold the highest rank of honor; yet into their school there are received in process of time kings and their counselors, senators and orators.
For ye see your calling – You know the general character and condition of those who are Christians among you, that they have not been generally taken from the wise, the rich, and the learned, but from humble life. The design of the apostle here is, to show that the gospel did not depend for its success on human wisdom. His argument is, that “in fact” those who were blessed by it had not been of the elevated ranks of life mainly, but that God had shown his power by choosing those who were ignorant, and vicious, and abandoned, and by reforming and purifying their lives. The verb “ye see” βλέπετε blepete, is ambiguous, and may be either in the indicative mood, as our translators have rendered it, “ye do see; you are well apprised of it, and know it,” or it may be in the imperative, “see; contemplate your condition;” but the sense is substantially the same. “Your calling” (τὴν κλησιν ten klesin) means “those who are called” 1Co_1:9; as “the circumcision” means those who are circumcised. Rom_3:30. The sense is, “took upon the condition of those who are Christians.”
Not many wise men – Not many who are regarded as wise; or who are ranked with philosophers. This supposes that there were some of that description, though the mass of Christians were then, as now, from more humble ranks of life. That there were some of high rank and wealth at Corinth who became Christians, is well known. Crispus and Sosthenes, rulers of the synagogue there (Act_28:8, Act_28:17; Compare 1Co_1:1); Gaius, a rich, hospitable man Rom_16:23; and Erastus the chancellor of the city of Corinth Rom_16:23, had been converted and were members of the church. Some have supposed (“Macknight”) that this should be rendered “not many mighty, wise, etc. ‘call you;’ that is, God has not employed the wise and the learned ‘to call’ you into his kingdom.” But the sense in our translation is evidently the correct interpretation. It is the obvious sense; and it agrees with the design of the apostle, which was to show that God had not consulted the wisdom, and power, and wealth of men in the establishment of his church. So the Syriac and the Vulgate render it.
According to the flesh – According to the maxims and principles of a sensual and worldly policy; according to the views of people when under the influence of those principles; that is, who are unrenewed. The flesh here stands opposed to the spirit; the views of the people of this world in contradistinction from the wisdom that is from above.
Not many mighty – Not many people of power; or men sustaining important “offices” in the state. Comp, Rev_6:15. The word may refer to those who wield power of any kind, whether derived from office, from rank, from wealth, etc.
Not many noble – Not many of illustrious birth, or descended from illustrious families – εὐγενεῖς eugeneis, “well-born.” In respect to each of these classes, the apostle does not say that there were no men of wealth, and power, and birth, but that the mass or body of Christians was not composed of such. They were made up of those who were in humble life. There were a few, indeed, of rank and property, as there are now; but then, as now, the great mass was composed of those who were from the lower conditions of society. The reason why God had chosen his people from that rank is stated in 1Co_1:29. The character of many of those who composed the church at Corinth before the conversion, is stated in 1Co_6:10-11, which see.
Behold (blepete). Same form for imperative present active plural and indicative. Either makes sense as in Joh_5:39 eraunate and Joh_14:1 pisteuete.
Calling (klesin). The act of calling by God, based not on the external condition of those called (klētoi, 1Co_1:2), but on God’s sovereign love. It is a clinching illustration of Paul’s argument, an argumentum ad hominen.
How that (hoti). Explanatory apposition to klēsin.
After the flesh (kata sarka). According to the standards of the flesh and to be used not only with sophoi (wise, philosophers), but also dunatoi (men of dignity and power), eugeneis (noble, high birth), the three claims to aristocracy (culture, power, birth).
Are called. Not in the Greek, but probably to be supplied from the idea in klēsin.
But God hath chosen – The fact of their being in the church at all was the result of his choice. It was owing entirely to his grace.
The foolish things – The things esteemed foolish among people. The expression here refers to those who were destitute of learning, rank, wealth, and power, and who were esteemed as fools, and were despised by the rich and the great.
To confound – To bring to shame; or that he might make them ashamed; that is, humble them by showing them how little he regarded their wisdom; and how little their wisdom contributed to the success of his cause. By thus overlooking them, and bestowing his favors on the humble and the poor; by choosing his people from the ranks which they despised, and bestowing on them the exalted privilege of being called the sons of God, he had poured dishonor on the rich and the great, and overwhelmed them, and their schemes of wisdom, with shame. It is also true, that those who are regarded as fools by the wise men of the world are able often to confound those who boast of their wisdom; and that the arguments of plain people, though unlearned except in the school of Christ; of people of sound common sense under the influence of Christian principles, have a force which the learning and talent of the people of this world cannot gainsay or resist. They have truth on their side; and truth, though dressed in a humble garb, is more mighty than error, though clothed with the brilliancy of imagination, the pomp of declamation, and the cunning of sophistry.
And the weak things – Those esteemed weak by the people of the world.
The mighty – The great; the noble; the learned.
28.Things that are not He makes use of similar terms in Rom_4:17, but in a different sense. For in that passage, when describing the universal call of the pious, he says, that we are nothing previously to our being called, which must be understood as referring to reality in the sight of God, however we may appear to be something in the eyes of men. Here, the nothingness (οὐδενεια) of which he speaks must be viewed as referring to the opinion of men, as is manifest from the corresponding clause, in which he says that this is done in order that the things that are may be brought to naughtFor there is nothing except in appearance, because in reality we are all nothing. Things that are, therefore, you must explain to mean things that appear,so that this passage corresponds with such statements as these: — He raiseth up the poor out of the dunghill, (Psa_113:7.)
He raiseth up them that are cast down, (Psa_146:8,) and the like. Hence we may clearly see how great is the folly of those who imagine that there is in mankind some degree of merit or worthiness, which would hold a place antecedent to God’s choice.
And base things – and things which are despised – It is very likely that the apostle refers here to the Gentiles and to the Gentile converts, who were considered base and despicable in the eyes of the Jews, who counted them no better than dogs, and who are repeatedly called the things that are not. By these very people, converted to Christianity, God has brought to nought all the Jewish pretensions; and by means of the Gentiles themselves, he has annihilated the whole Jewish polity; so that even Jerusalem itself was soon after this, trodden under foot of the Gentiles.
1Co 1:28 Things that are not – The Jews frequently called the gentiles, “Them that are not,” 2 Esdras vi. 56, 57. In so supreme contempt did they hold them. The things that are – In high esteem.
And base things of the world – Those things which by the world are esteemed ignoble. Literally, those which are not of noble, or illustrious birth τὰ ἀγειῆ ta ageiē.
Things which are despised – Those which the world regards as objects of contempt; compare Mar_9:12; Luk_18:19; Act_4:11.
Yea – The introduction of this word by the translators does nothing to illustrate the sense, but rather enfeebles it. The language here is a striking instance of Paul’s manner of expressing himself with great strength. He desires to convey in the strongest terms, the fact, that God had illustrated his plan by choosing the objects of least esteem among people. He is willing to admit all that could be said on this point. He says, therefore, that he had chosen the things of ignoble birth and rank – the base things of the world; but this did not fully express his meaning. He had chosen objects of contempt among people; but this was not strong enough to express his idea. He adds, therefore, that he had chosen those things which were absolutely nothing, which had no existence; which could not be supposed to influence him in his choice.
And things which are not – τὰ μὴ όντα ta me onta. That which is nothing; which is worthless; which has no existence; those flyings which were below contempt itself; and which, in the estimation of the world, were passed by as having no existence; as not having sufficient importance to be esteemed worthy even of the slight notice which is implied in contempt. For a man who despises a thing must at least notice it, and esteem it worth some attention. But the apostle here speaks of things beneath even that slight notice; as completely and totally disregarded, as having no existence. The language here is evidently that of hyperbole (compare the note at Joh_21:25). It was a figure of speech common in the East, and not unusual in the sacred writings; compare Isa_40:17.
All nations before him are as nothing.And they are counted to him less than nothing and vanity.
See also Rom_4:17, “God, who – calleth those things which be not, as though they were.” This language was strongly expressive of the estimate which the Jews fixed on the Gentiles, as being a despised people, as being in fact no people; a people without laws, and organization, and religion, and privileges; see Hos_1:10; Hos_2:23; Rom_9:25; 1Pe_2:10. “When a man of rank among the Hindus speaks of low-caste persons, of notorious profligates, or of those whom he despises, he calls them “alla-tha-varkal,” that is, “those who are not.” The term does not refer to life or existence, but to a quality or disposition, and is applied to those who are vile and abominable in all things. “My son, my son, go not among them ‘who are not.’” “Alas! alas! those people are all alla-tha-varkal.” When wicked men prosper, it is said, “this is the time for those ‘who are not.’” “Have you heard that those ‘who are not’ are now acting righteously?” Vulgar and indecent expressions are also called, “words that are not.” “To address men in the phrase ‘are not,’ is provoking beyond measure” – Roberts, as quoted in Bush’s Illustrations of Scripture.
To bring to naught – To humble and subdue. To show them how vain and impotent they were.
Things that are – Those who on account of their noble birth, high attainments, wealth, and rank placed a high estimate on themselves and despised others.
29.That no flesh should glory Though the term flesh here, and in many passages of Scripture, denotes all mankind, yet in this passage it carries with it a particular idea; for the Spirit, by speaking of mankind in terms of contempt, beats down their pride, as in Isa_31:3 — The Egyptian is flesh and not spirit It is a sentiment that is worthy to be kept in remembrance — that there is nothing left us in which we may justly glory. With this view he adds the expression in God’s presence For in the presence of the world many delight themselves for the moment in a false glorying, which, however, quickly vanishes like smoke. At the same time, by this expression all mankind are put to silence when they come into the presence of God; as Habakkuk says — Let all flesh keep silence before God, (Hab_2:20.)
Let every thing, therefore, that is at all deserving of praise, be recognized as proceeding from God.
That no flesh – That no person; no class of people. The word “flesh” is often thus used to denote human beings. Mat_24:22; Luk_3:6; Joh_17:2; Act_2:17; 1Pe_1:24; etc.
Should glory – Should boast; Rom_3:27.
In his presence – Before him. That man should really have nothing of which to boast; but that the whole scheme should be adapted to humble and subdue him. On these verses we may observe:
(1) That it is to be expected that the great mass of Christian converts will be found among those who are of humble life – and it may be observed also, that true virtue and excellence; sincerity and amiableness; honesty and sincerity, are usually found there also.
(2) that while the mass of Christians are found there, there are also those of noble birth, and rank, and wealth, who become Christians. The aggregate of those who from elevated ranks and distinguished talents have become Christians, has not been small. It is sufficient to refer to such names as Pascal, and Bacon, and Boyle, and Newton, and Locke, and Hale, and Wilberforce, to show that religion can command the homage of the most illustrious genius and rank.
(3) the reasons why those of rank and wealth do not become Christians, are many and obvious:
(a) They are beset with special temptations.
(b) They are usually satisfied with rank, and wealth, and do not feel their need of a hope of heaven.
(c) They are surrounded with objects which flatter their vanity, which minister to their pride, and which throw them into the circle of alluring and tempting pleasures.
(d) They are drawn away from the means of grace and the places of prayer, by fashion, by business, by temptation.
(e) There is something about the pride of learning and philosophy, which usually makes those who possess it unwilling to sit at the feet of Christ; to acknowledge their dependence on any power; and to confess that they are poor, and needy, and blind, and naked before God.
(4) the gospel is designed to produce humility, and to place all people on a level in regard to salvation. There is no royal way to the favor of God. No monarch is saved because he is a monarch; no philosopher because he is a philosopher; no rich man because he is rich; no poor man because he is poor. All are placed on a level. All are to be saved in the same way. All are to become willing to give the entire glory to God. All are to acknowledge him as providing the plan, and as furnishing the grace that is needful for salvation. God’s design is to bring down the pride of man, and to produce everywhere a willingness to acknowledge him as the fountain of blessings and the God of all.
That no flesh should glory before God (hopos me kauchesetai pasa sarx enopion tou theou). This is the further purpose expressed by hopos for variety and appeals to God’s ultimate choice in all three instances. The first aorist middle of the old verb kauchaomai, to boast, brings out sharply that not a single boast is to be made. The papyri give numerous examples of enopion as a preposition in the vernacular, from adjective enopios, in the eye of God. One should turn to 2Co_4:7 for Paul’s further statement about our having this treasure in earthen vessels that the excellency of the power may be of God and not of us.
30.Of him are ye.Lest they should think that any of those things that he had said were inapplicable to them, he now shows the application of those things to them, inasmuch as they are not otherwise than of GodFor the words ye are are emphatic, as though he had said — “You have your beginning from God, who calleth those things which are not,” (Rom_4:17,) passing by those things that appear to be; and your subsistence is founded upon Christ, and thus you have no occasion to be proud. Nor is it of creation merely that he speaks, but of that spiritual existence, into which we are born again by the grace of God.
Who of God is made unto us As there are many to be found who, while not avowedly inclined to draw back from God, do nevertheless seek something apart from Christ, as if he alone did not contain all things in himself, he reckons up in passing what and how great are the treasures with which Christ is furnished, and in such a way as to intimate at the same time what is the manner of subsistence in Christ. For when he calls Christ our righteousness, a corresponding idea must be understood — that in us there is nothing but sin; and so as to the other terms. Now he ascribes here to Christ four commendatory titles, that include his entire excellence, and every benefit that we receive from him.
In the first place, he says that he is made unto us wisdom, by which he means, that we obtain in him an absolute perfection of wisdom, inasmuch as the Father has fully revealed himself to us in him, that we may not desire to know any thing besides him. There is a similar passage in Col_2:3 — In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Of this we shall have occasion to speak afterwards when we come to the next chapter.
Secondly, he says that he is made unto us righteousness, by which he means that we are on his account acceptable to God, inasmuch as he expiated our sins by his death, and his obedience is imputed to us for righteousness. For as the righteousness of faith consists in remission of sins and a gracious acceptance, we obtain both through Christ.
Thirdly, he calls him our sanctification, by which he means, that we who are otherwise unholy by nature, are by his Spirit renewed unto holiness, that we may serve God. From this, also, we infer, that we cannot be justified freely through faith alone without at the same time living holily. For these fruits of grace are connected together, as it were, by an indissoluble tie, so that he who attempts to sever them does in a manner tear Christ in pieces. Let therefore the man who seeks to be justified through Christ, by God’s unmerited goodness, consider that this cannot be attained without his taking him at the same time for sanctification, or, in other words, being renewed to innocence and purity of life. Those, however, that slander us, as if by preaching a free justification through faith we called men off from good works, are amply refuted from this passage, which intimates that faith apprehends in Christ regeneration equally with forgiveness of sins.
Observe, on the other hand, that these two offices of Christ are conjoined in such a manner as to be, notwithstanding, distinguished from each other. What, therefore, Paul here expressly distinguishes, it is not allowable mistakenly to confound.
Fourthly, he teaches us that he is given to us for redemption, by which he means, that through his goodness we are delivered at once from all bondage to sin, and from all the misery that flows from it. Thus redemption is the first gift of Christ that is begun in us, and the last that is completed. For the commencement of salvation consists in our being drawn out of the labyrinth of sin and death; yet in the meantime, until the final day of the resurrection, we groan with desire for redemption, (as we read in Rom_8:23.) If it is asked in what way Christ is given to us for redemption, I answer — “Because he made himself a ransom.”
In fine, of all the blessings that are here enumerated we must seek in Christ not the half, or merely a part, but the entire completion. For Paul does not say that he has been given to us by way of filling up, or eking out righteousness, holiness, wisdom, and redemption, but assigns to him exclusively the entire accomplishment of the whole. Now as you will scarcely meet with another passage of Scripture that more distinctly marks out all the offices of Christ, you may also understand from it very clearly the nature and efficacy of faith. For as Christ is the proper object of faith, every one that knows what are the benefits that Christ confers upon us is at the same time taught to understand what faith is.
But of him are ye in Christ Jesus – Even the good which you possess is granted by God, for it is by and through him that Christ Jesus comes, and all the blessings of the Gospel dispensation.
Who of God is made unto us wisdom – As being the author of that evangelical wisdom which far excels the wisdom of the philosopher and the scribe, and even that legal constitution which is called the wisdom of the Jews, Deu_4:6.
And righteousness – Δικαιοσυνη, Justification, as procuring for us that remission of sins which the law could not give, Gal_2:21; Gal_3:21.
And sanctification – As procuring for and working in us, not only an external and relative holiness, as was that of the Jews, but ὁσιοτητα της αληθειας, true and eternal holiness, Eph_4:24, wrought in us by the Holy Spirit.
And redemption – He is the author of redemption, not from the Egyptian bondage, or Babylonish captivity, but from the servitude of Satan, the dominion of sin and death, and from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the sons of God, or the redemption of the body, Rom_8:21, Rom_8:23. See Whitby.
The object of the apostle is to show that man of himself possesses no good, that whatever he has comes from God, and from God only through Christ. For the different acceptations of the word righteousness the reader may consult the note on Rom_1:17 (note), where the subject is considered in every point of view.
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
But … ye — in contrast to them that “glory” in worldly wisdom and greatness.
of him are — not of yourselves (Eph_2:8), but of Him (Rom_11:36). From Him ye are (that is, have spiritual life, who once were spiritually among the “things which are not.” 1Co_1:28).
in Christ — by living union with Him. Not “in the flesh” (1Co_1:26, 1Co_1:29).
of God — from God; emanating from Him and sent by Him.
is made unto us — has been made to us, to our eternal gain.
wisdom — unattainable by the worldly mode of seeking it (1Co_1:19, 1Co_1:20; contrast Col_2:3; Pro_8:1-36; Isa_9:6). By it we become “wise unto salvation,” owing to His wisdom in originating and executing the plan, whereas once we were “fools.”
righteousness — the ground of our justification (Jer_23:5, Jer_23:6; Rom_4:25; 2Co_5:21); whereas once we were “weak” (Rom_5:6). Isa_42:21; Isa_45:24.
sanctification — by His Spirit; whereas formerly we were “base.” Hereafter our righteousness and sanctification alike shall be both perfect and inherent. Now the righteousness wherewith we are justified is perfect, but not inherent; that wherewith we are sanctified is inherent, but not perfect [Hooker]. Now sanctification is perfect in principle, but not in attainment. These two are joined in the Greek as forming essentially but one thing, as distinguished from the “wisdom” in devising and executing the plan for us (“abounded toward us in all wisdom,” Eph_1:8), and “redemption,” the final completion of the scheme in the deliverance of the body (the position of “redemption” last shows that this limited sense is the one intended here). Luk_21:28; Rom_8:23; Eph_1:14; Eph_4:30.
redemption — whereas once we were “despised.”
But of him – That is, by his agency and power. It is not by philosophy; not from ourselves; but by his mercy. The apostle keeps it prominently in view, that it was not of their philosophy, wealth, or rank that they had been raised to these privileges, but of God as the author.
Are ye – Ye are what you are by the mercy of God. 1Co_15:10. You owe your hopes to him. The emphasis in this verse is to he placed on this expression, “are ye.” You are Christians, not by the agency of man, but by the agency of God.
(See the supplementary note at Rom_8:10.)
In Christ Jesus – See the note at 1Co_1:4. By the medium, or through the work of Christ, this mercy has been conferred on you.
Who of God – From God απὸ θεου apo theou. Christ is given to us by God, or appointed by him to be our wisdom, etc. God originated the scheme, and God gave him for this end.
Wisdom – That is, he is to us the source of wisdom; it is by him that we are made wise. This cannot mean that his wisdom becomes strictly and properly ours; that it is set over to us, and reckoned as our own, for that is not true. But it must mean simply, that Christians have become “truly wise” by the agency, the teaching, and the work of Christ. Philosophers had attempted to become wise by their own investigations and inquiries. But Christians had become wise by the work of Christ; that is, it had been by his instructions that they had been made acquainted with the true character of God; with his law; with their own condition; and with the great truth that there was a glorious immortality beyond the grave. None of these truths had been obtained by the investigations of philosophers, but by the instructions of Christ. In like manner it was that through him they had been made practically wise unto salvation. Compare Col_2:3, “In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” He is the great agent by whom we become truly wise. Christ is often represented as eminently wise, and as the source of all true wisdom to his people. Isa_11:1; Mat_13:54; Luk_2:40, Luk_2:52; 1Co_1:24; 1Co_3:10. “Ye are wise in Christ.” Many commentators have supposed that the beautiful description of wisdom, in Prov. 8 is applicable to the Messiah. Christ may be said to be made wisdom to us, or to communicate wisdom:
(1) Because he has in his own ministry instructed us in the true knowledge of God, and of those great truths which pertain to our salvation.
(2) because he has by his word and spirit led us to see our true situation, and made us “wise unto salvation.” He has turned us from the ways of folly, and inclined us to walk in the path of true wisdom.
(3) because he is to his people now the source of wisdom. He enlightens their mind in the time of perplexity; guides them in the way of truth; and leads them in the path of real knowledge. It often happens that obscure and ignorant people, who have been taught in the school of Christ, have more true and real knowledge of that which concerns their welfare, and evince more real practical wisdom, than can be learned in all the schools of philosophy and learning on the earth. It is wise for a sinful and dying creature to prepare for eternity. But none but those who are instructed by the Son of God, become thus wise.
And righteousness – By whom we become righteous in the sight of God. This declaration simply affirms that we become righteous through him, as it is affirmed that we become wise, sanctified, and redeemed through him. But neither of the expressions determine anything as to the mode by which it is done. The leading idea of the apostle, which should never be lost sight of, is that the Greeks by their philosophy did not become truly wise, righteous, sanctified, and redeemed; but that this was accomplished through Jesus Christ. But “in what way” this was done, or by what process or mode, is not here stated; and it should be no more assumed from this text that we became righteous by the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, than it should be that we became wise by the imputation of his wisdom, and sanctified by the imputation of his holiness. If this passage would prove one of these points, it would prove all. But as it is absurd to say that we became wise by the imputation of the personal wisdom of Christ, so this passage should not be brought to prove that we became righteous by the imputation of his righteousness. Whatever may be the truth of that doctrine, this passage does not prove it.
By turning to other parts of the New Testament to learn in what way we are made righteous through Christ, or in what way he is made unto us righteousness; we learn that it is in two modes:
(1) Because it is by his merits alone that our sins are pardoned, and we are justified, and treated as righteous (see the note at Rom_3:26-27); and,
(2) Because by his influence, and work, and Spirit, and truth, we are made personally holy in the sight of God.
The former is doubtless the thing intended here, as sanctification is specified after. The apostle here refers simply to the fact, without specifying the mode in which it is done. That is to be learned from other parts of the New Testament. Compare the note at Rom_4:25. The doctrine of justification is, that God regards and treats those as righteous who believe on his Son, and who are pardoned on account of what he has done and suffered. The several steps in the process may be thus stated:
(1) The sinner is by nature exposed to the wrath of God. He is lost and ruined. He has no merit of his own. He has violated a holy law, and that law condemns him, and he has no power to make an atonement or reparation. He can never be pronounced a “just” man on his own merits. He can never vindicate his conduct, as a man can do in a court of justice where he is unjustly accused, and so be pronounced just.
(2) Jesus Christ has taken the sinner’s place, and died in his stead. He has honored a broken law; he has rendered it consistent for God to pardon. By his dreadful sufferings, endured in the sinner’s place, God has shown his hatred of sin, and his willingness to forgive. His truth will be vindicated, and his law honored, and his government secured, if now he shall pardon the offender when penitent. As he endured these sorrows for others, and not for himself, they can be so reckoned, and are so judged by God. All the “benefits” or “results” of that atonement, therefore, as it was made for others, can be applied to them, and all the advantage of such substitution in their place, can be made over to them, as really as when a man pays a note of hand for a friend; or when he pays for another a ransom. The price is reckoned as paid for them, and the “benefits” flow to the debtor and the captive. It is not reckoned that they paid it, for that is not true; but that it was done for them, and the benefit may be theirs, which is true.
(3) God has been pleased to promise that these benefits may be conferred on him who believes in the Saviour. The sinner is “united” by faith to the Lord Jesus, and is so adjudged, or reckoned. God “esteems” or judges him to be a believer according to the promise. And so believing, and so repenting, he deems it consistent to pardon and justify him who is so united to his Son by faith. He is justified, not by the ACT of faith; not by any merits of his own, but by the merits of Christ. He has no other ground, and no other hope. Thus, he is in fact a pardoned and justified man; and God so reckons and judges. God’s law is honored, and the sinner is pardoned and saved; and it is now as consistent for God to treat him as a righteous man, as it would be if he had never sinned – since there is as high honor shown to the law of God, as there would have been had he been personally obedient, or had he personally suffered its penalty. And as, through the death of Christ, the same “results” are secured in upholding God’s moral government as would be by his condemnation, it is consistent and proper for God to forgive him and treat him as a righteous man; and to do so accords with the infinite benevolence of his heart.
And sanctification – By him we are sanctified or made holy. This does not mean, evidently, that his personal holiness is reckoned to us, but that by his work applied to our hearts, we become personally sanctified or holy. Compare Eph_4:24. This is done by the agency of his Spirit applying truth to the mind Joh_17:19, by the aid which he furnishes in trials, temptations, and conflicts, and by the influence of hope in sustaining, elevating and purifying the soul. All the truth that is employed to sanctify, was taught primarily by him; and all the means that may be used are the purchase of his death, and are under his direction; and the Spirit by whose agency Christians are sanctified, was sent into the world by him, and in answer to his prayers. Joh_14:16; Joh_15:26.
And redemption – απολύτρωσις apolutrosis. The word used here occurs only 10 times in the New Testament, Luk_21:28; Rom_3:24; Rom_8:23; 1Co_1:30; Eph_1:7, Eph_1:14; Eph_4:30; Col_1:14; Heb_9:15; Heb_11:35. Its root (λύτρον lutron) properly denotes the price which is paid for a prisoner of war; the ransom, or stipulated purchase-money, which being paid, the captive is set free. The word used here is then employed to denote liberation from bondage, captivity, or evil of any kind, usually keeping up the idea of a price, or a ransom paid, in consequence of which the delivery is effected. It is sometimes used in a large sense, to denote simple deliverance by any means, without reference to a price paid, as in Luk_21:28; Rom_8:23; Eph_1:14. That this is not the sense here, however, is apparent. For the apostle in the next verse proceeds to specify the price which has been paid, or the means by which this redemption has been effected. The word here denotes that deliverance from sin, and from the evil consequences of sin, which has been effected by the offering of Jesus Christ as a propitiation. The things which are specified above, “justification and sanctification,” are a part of the work of redemption. Probably the word is used here in a wide sense, as denoting the whole “group,” or class of influences by which we are brought at last to heaven; so that the apostle refers not only to his atonement, but to the work by which we are in fact redeemed from death, and made happy in heaven. Thus, in Rom_8:23, the word is applied to the resurrection, “the ‘redemption’ of the body.” The sense is, “it is by Christ that we are redeemed; by him that an atonement is made; by him that we are pardoned; by him that we are delivered from the dominion of sin, and the power of our enemies; and by him that we shall be rescued from the grave, and raised up to everlasting life.” Thus, the whole work depends on him; and no part of it is to be ascribed to the philosophy, the talent, or the wisdom of human beings. He does not merely aid us; he does not complete that which is imperfect; he does not come in to do a part of the work, or to supply our defects; but it is all to be traced to him. Col_2:10, “and ye are complete in him.”
31.He that glorieth let him glory in the Lord Mark the end that God has in view in bestowing all things upon us in Christ — that we may not claim any merit to ourselves, but may give him all the praise. For God does not despoil with the view of leaving us bare, but forthwith clothes us with his glory — yet on this condition, that whenever we would glory we must go out of ourselves. In short, man, brought to nothing in his own estimation, and acknowledging that there is nothing good anywhere but in God alone, must renounce all desire for his own glory, and with all his might aspire and aim at the glory of God exclusively. This is also more clearly apparent from the context in the writings of the Prophet, from whom Paul has borrowed this testimony; for in that passage the Lord, after stripping all mankind of glory in respect of strength, wisdom, and riches, commands us to glory only in knowing him, (Jer_9:23.) Now he would have us know him in such a way as to know that it is he that exercises judgment, righteousness, and mercy. For this knowledge produces in us at once confidence in him and fear of him. If therefore a man has his mind regulated in such a manner that, claiming no merit to himself, he desires that God alone be exalted; if he rests with satisfaction on his grace, and places his entire happiness in his fatherly love, and, in fine, is satisfied with God alone, that man truly “glories in the Lord.” I say truly, for even hypocrites on false grounds glory in him, as Paul declares, (Rom_2:17,) when being either puffed up with his gifts, or elated with a base confidence in the flesh, or abusing his word, they nevertheless take his name upon them.
According as it is written – In Jer_9:23, Jer_9:24 : Thus saith the Lord, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might; let not the rich man glory in his riches; but let him that glorieth glory in this: That he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the Lord, which exercise loving-kindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth. So then, as all good is of and from God, let him that has either wisdom, strength, riches, pardon, holiness, or any other blessing, whether temporal or spiritual, acknowledge that he has nothing but what he has received; and that, as he has cause of glorying (boasting or exultation) in being made a partaker of these benefits and mercies of his Creator and Redeemer, let him boast in God alone, by whom, through Christ Jesus, he has received the whole.
1. This is an admirable chapter, and drawn up with great skill and address. The divided state of the Corinthian Church we have already noticed, and it appears that in these factions the apostle’s authority had been set at nought by some, and questioned by many. St. Paul begins his letter with showing his authority; he had it immediately through Christ Jesus himself, by the will of God. And indeed the success of his preaching was a sufficient proof of the Divinity of his call. Had not God been with him he never could have successfully opposed the whole system of the national religion of the Corinthians, supported as it was by the prejudice of the people, the authority of the laws, and the eloquence and learning of their most eminent philosophers. It was necessary, therefore, that he should call the attention of this people to the Divine origin of his mission, that they might acknowledge that the excellency of the power was of God, and not of man.
2. It was necessary also that he should conciliate their esteem, and therefore speak as favourably concerning them as truth would allow; hence he shows them that they were a Church of God, sanctified in Christ Jesus, and called to be saints; that they abounded and even excelled in many extraordinary gifts and graces; and that they were not inferior to any Church of God in any gift. And he shows them that they received all these through God’s confirmation of that testimony which he had delivered among them, 1Co_1:4-7.
3. When he had thus prepared their minds to receive and profit by his admonitions he proceeds to their schisms, which he mentions and reprehends in the most delicate manner, so that the most obstinate and prejudiced could take no offense.
4. Having gained this point, he gently leads them to consider that, as God is the fountain of all good, so their good had all come from him; and that none of them should rest in the gift, but in the giver; nor should they consider themselves as of particular consequence on account of possessing such gifts, because all earthly good is transitory, and those who trust in power, wisdom, or wealth, are confounded and brought to nought; and that they alone are safe who receive every thing as from the hand of God, and, in the strength of his gifts, glorify him who is the donor of all good. He who can read this chapter without getting much profit has very little spirituality in his soul, and must be utterly unacquainted with the work of God in the heart.
As it is written – This is evidently a quotation made from Jer_9:23-24. It is not made literally; but the apostle has “condensed” the sense of the prophet into a few words, and has retained essentially his idea.
He that glorieth – He that boasts or exults.
In the Lord – Not ascribing his salvation to human abilities, or learning, or rank, but entirely to God. And from this we see:
(1) That the design of the plan of salvation is to exalt God in view of the mind.
(2) that the design is to make us humble; and this is the design also of all his works no less than of the plan of salvation. All just views of the creation tend to produce true humility.
(3) it is an evidence of piety when we are thus disposed to exalt God, and to be humble. It shows that the heart is changed; and that we are truly disposed to honor him.
(4)we may rejoice in God. We have no strength, and no righteousness of which to boast; but we may rejoice in him. He is full of goodness and mercy. He is able to save us. He can redeem us out of the hand of all our enemies. And when we are conscious that we are poor, and feeble, and helpless; when oppressed with a sense of sin, we may rejoice in him as our God; and exult in him as our Saviour and Redeemer. True piety will delight to come and lay everything at his feet; and whatever may be our rank, or talent, or learning, we shall rejoice to come with the temper of the humblest child of poverty, and sorrow, and lack, and to say, “not unto us, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory for thy mercy, and for thy truth’s sake,” Psa_115:1.
9.For we are fellow-laborers with God. Here is the best argument. It is the Lord’s work that we are employed in, and it is to him that we have devoted our labors: hence, as he is faithful and just, he will not disappoint us of our reward. That man, accordingly, is mistaken who looks to men, or depends merely on their remuneration. Here we have an admirable commendation of the ministry — that while God could accomplish the work entirely himself, he calls us, puny mortals, to be as it were his coadjutors, and makes use of us as instruments. As to the perversion of this statement by the Papists, for supporting their system of free-will, it is beyond measure silly, for Paul shows here, not what men can effect by their natural powers, but what the Lord accomplishes through means of them by his grace. As to the exposition given by some — that Paul, being God’s workman, was a fellow-workman with his colleagues, that is, with the other teachers — it appears to me harsh and forced, and there is nothing whatever in the case that shuts us up to have recourse to that refinement. For it corresponds admirably with the Apostle’s design to understand him to mean, that, while it is peculiarly the work of God to build his temple, or cultivate his vineyard, he calls forth ministers to be fellow-laborers, by means of whom He alone works; but, at the same time, in such a way, that they in their turn labor in common with him. As to the reward of works, consult my Institutes.
God’s husbandry, God’s building. These expressions may be explained in two ways. They may be taken actively in this sense: “You have been planted in the Lord’s field by the labor of men in such a way, that our heavenly Father himself is the true Husbandman, and the Author of this plantation. You have been built up by men in such a way, that he himself is the true Master-builder. Or, it may be taken in a passive sense, thus: “In laboring to till you, and to sow the word of God among you and water it, we have not done this on our own account, or with a view to advantage to accrue to us, but have devoted our service to the Lord. In our endeavors to build you up, we have not been influenced by a view to our own advantage, but with a view to your being God’s planting and building. This latter interpretation I rather prefer, for I am of opinion, that Paul meant here to express the idea, that true ministers labor not for themselves, but for the Lord. Hence it follows, that the Corinthians were greatly to blame in devoting themselves to men, while of right they belonged exclusively to God. And, in the first place, he calls them his husbandry, following out the metaphor previously taken up, and then afterwards, with the view of introducing himself to a larger discussion, he makes use of another metaphor, derived from architecture.
For we are laborers together with God – We do nothing of ourselves, nor in reference to ourselves; we labor together in that work which God has given us to do, expect all our success from him, and refer the whole to his glory. It would perhaps be more correct to translate Θεου γαρ εσμεν συνεργοι, we are fellow laborers of God; for, as the preposition συν may express the joint labor of the teachers one with another, and not with God, I had rather, with Bishop Pearce, translate as above: i.e. we labor together in the work of God. Far from being divided among ourselves, we jointly labor, as oxen in the same yoke, to promote the honor of our Master.
Ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building – Θεου γεωργιον, Θεου οικοδομη εστε· The word γεωργιον, which we translate husbandry, signifies properly an arable field; so Pro_24:30 : I went by the Field, γεωργιον, of the slothful; and Pro_31:16 : The wise woman considereth a Field, γεωργιον, and buyeth it. It would be more literal to translate it, Ye are God’s farm: γεωργιον in Greek answers to שדה sadeh in Hebrew, which signifies properly a sown field.
Ye are God’s building. – Ye are not only the field which God cultivates, but ye are the house which God builds, and in which he intends to dwell. As no man in viewing a fine building extols the quarryman that dug up the stones, the hewer that cut and squared them, the mason that placed them in the wall, the woodman that hewed down the timber, the carpenter that squared and jointed it, etc., but the architect who planned it, and under whose direction the whole work was accomplished; so no man should consider Paul, or Apollos, or Kephas, any thing, but as persons employed by the great Architect to form a building which is to become a habitation of himself through the Spirit, and the design of which is entirely his own.
For we are labourers together with God – Θεου γαρ εσμεν συνεργοί Theou gar esmen sunergoi. We are God’s co-workers. A similar expression occurs in 2Co_6:1, “We then as workers together with him,” etc. This passage is capable of two significations: first, as in our translation, that they were co-workers with God; engaged with him in his work, that he and they cooperated in the production of the effect; or that it was a joint-work; as we speak of a partnercy, or of joint-effort among people. So many interpreters have understood this. If this is the sense of the passage, then it means that as a farmer may be said to be a co-worker with God when he plants and tills his field, or does that without which God would not work in that case, or without which a harvest would not be produced, so the Christian minister cooperates with God in producing the same result. He is engaged in performing that which is indispensable to the end; and God also, by His Spirit, cooperates with the same design. If this is the idea, it gives a special sacredness to the work of the ministry, and indeed to the work of the farmer and the vinedresser. There is no higher honor than for a man to be engaged in doing the same things which God does, and participating with him in accomplishing his glorious plans. But doubts have been suggested in regard to this interpretation:
(1) The Greek does not of necessity imply this. It is literally, not we are his co-partners, but we are his fellow-laborers, that is, fellow-laborers in his employ, under his direction – as we say of servants of the same rank they are fellow-laborers of the same master, not meaning that the master was engaged in working with them, but that they were fellow-laborers one with another in his employment.
(2) there is no expression that is parallel to this. There is none that speaks of God’s operating jointly with his creatures in producing the same result. They may be engaged in regard to the same end; but the sphere of God’s operations and of their operations is distinct. God does one thing; and they do another, though they may contribute to the same result. The sphere of God’s operations in the growth of a tree is totally distinct from that of the man who plants it. The man who planted it has no agency in causing the juices to circulate; in expanding the bud or the leaf; that is, in the proper work of God – In 3Jo_1:8, Christians are indeed said to he “fellow-helpers to the truth” συνεργοὶ τῆ ἀληθεία sunergoi tē alētheia; that is, they operate with the truth, and contribute by their labors and influence to that effect. In Mark also Mar_16:20, it is said that the apostles “went forth and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them” (τοῦ κυρίου συνεργοῖντος tou kuriou sunergointos), where the phrase means that the Lord cooperated with them by miracles, etc. The Lord, by his own proper energy, and in his own sphere, contributed to the success of the work in which they were engaged.
(3) the main design and scope of this whole passage is to show that God is all – that the apostles are nothing; to represent the apostles not as joint-workers with God, but as working by themselves, and God as alone giving efficiency to all that was done. The idea is, that of depressing or humbling the apostles, and of exalting God; and this idea would not be consistent with the interpretation that they were joint-laborers with him. While, therefore, the Greek would hear the interpretation conveyed in our translation, the sense may perhaps be, that the apostles were joint-laborers with each other in God’s service; that they were united in their work, and that God was all in all; that they were like servants employed in the service of a master, without saying that the master participated with them in their work. This idea is conveyed in the translation of Doddridge, “we are the fellow-laborers of God.” So Rosenmuller, Calvin, however, Grotius, Whitby, and Bloomfield, coincide with our version in the interpretation. The Syriac renders it “We work with God.” The Vulgate, “We are the aids of God.”
Ye are God’s husbandry – (γεώργιον georgion); margin, “tillage.” This word occurs no where else in the New Testament. It properly denotes a “tilled” or “cultivated field;” and the idea is, that the church at Corinth was the field on which God had bestowed the labor of tillage, or culture, to produce fruit. The word is used by the Septuagint in Gen_26:14, as the translation of צבדה ‛abudaah; “For he had ‘possession’ of flocks,” etc.; in Jer_51:23, as the translation of צמד tsemed “a yoke;” and in Pro_24:30; Pro_31:16, as the translation of שׂדי saadeh, “a field;” “I went by the ‘field’ of the slothful,” etc. The sense here is, that all their culture was of God; that as a church they were under his care; and that all that had been produced in them was to be traced to his cultivation.
God’s building – This is another metaphor. The object of Paul was to show that all that had been done for them had been really accomplished by God. For this purpose he first says that they were God’s cultivated field; then he changes the figure; draws his illustration from architecture, and says, that they had been built by him as an architect rears a house. It does not rear itself; but it is reared by another. So he says of the Corinthians, “Ye are the building which God erects.” The same figure is used in 2Co_6:16, and Eph_2:21; see also Heb_3:6; 1Pe_2:5. The idea is, that God is the supreme agent in the founding and establishing of the church, in all its gifts and graces.
God’s fellow-workers (theou sunergoi). This old word (Corinthians-workers of God) has a new dignity here. God is the major partner in the enterprise of each life, but he lets us work with him. Witness the mother and God with the baby as the product.
God’s husbandry (theou georgion). God’s tilled land (ge ergon). The farmer works with God in God’s field. Without the sun, the rains, the seasons the farmer is helpless.
God’s building (theou oikodome). God is the Great Architect. We work under him and carry out the plans of the Architect. It is building (oikos, house, demō, to build). Let us never forget that God sees and cares what we do in the part of the building where we work for him.
10.As a wise master-builder It is a most apt similitude, and accordingly it is frequently met with in the Scriptures, as we shall see ere long. Here, however, the Apostle declares his fidelity with great confidence and fearlessness, as it required to be asserted in opposition not merely to the calumnies of the wicked, but also to the pride of the Corinthians, who had already begun to despise his doctrine. The more, therefore, they lowered him, so much the higher does he raise himself up, and speaking as it were from a pulpit of vast height, he declares that he had been the first master-builder of God among them in laying the foundation, and that he had with wisdom executed that department of duty, and that it remained that others should go forward in the same manner, regulating the superstructure in conformity with the rule of the foundation. Let us observe that these things are said by Paul first of all for the purpose of commending his doctrine, which he saw was despised by the Corinthians; and, secondly, for the purpose of repressing the insolence of others, who from a desire for distinction, affected a new method of teaching. These he accordingly admonishes to attempt nothing rashly in God’s building. Two things he prohibits them from doing: they must not venture to lay another foundation, and they must not raise a superstructure that will not be answerable to the foundation.
According to the graceHe always takes diligent heed not to usurp to himself a single particle of the glory that belongs to God, for he refers all thing’s to God, and leaves nothing to himself, except his having been an instrument. While, however, he thus submits himself humbly to God, he indirectly reproves the arrogance of those who thought nothing of throwing the grace of Godinto the shade, provided only they were themselves held in estimation. He hints, too, that there was nothing of the grace of the Spirit in that empty show, for which they were held in esteem, while on the other hand he clears himself from contempt, on the ground of his having been under divine influence.
According to the grace of God – By the favor of God which is given to me. All that Paul had done had been by the mere favor of God. His appointment was from him; and all the skill which he had shown, and all the agency which he had employed, had been from him. The architectural figure is here continued with some striking additions and illustrations. By the “grace of God” here, Paul probably means his apostleship to the Gentiles, which had been conferred on him by the mere favor of God, and all the wisdom, and skill, and success which he had evinced in founding the church.
As a wise master-builder – Greek “Architect.” The word does not imply that Paul had any pre-eminence over his brethren, but that he had proceeded in his work as a skillful architect, who secures first a firm foundation. Every builder begins with the foundation; and Paul had proceeded in this manner in laying first a firm foundation on which the church could be reared. The word “wise” here means “skillful” or “judicious”; compare Mat_7:24.
I have laid the foundation – “What” this foundation was, he states in 1Co_3:11. The meaning here is, that the church at Corinth had been at first established by Paul; see Act_18:1, etc.
And another – Other teachers. I have communicated to the church the first elements of Christian knowledge. Others follow out this instruction, and edify the church. The discussion here undergoes a slight change. In the former part of the chapter, “Christians” are compared to a building; here the “doctrines” which are taught in the church are compared to various parts of a building. Grotius. See similar instances of translation in Matt. 13; Mark 4; John 10.
But let every man … – Every man who is a professed teacher. Let him be careful what instructions he shall give to a church that has been founded by apostolic hands, and that is established on the only true foundation. This is designed to guard against false instruction and the instructions of false teachers. People should take heed what instruction they give to a church:
(1) Because of the fact that the church belongs to God, and they should be cautious what directions they give to it;
(2) Because it is important that Christians should not only be on the true foundation, but that they should be fully instructed in the nature of their religion, and the church should be permitted to rise in its true beauty and loveliness;
(3) Because of the evils which result from false instruction.
Even when the foundation is firm, incalculable evils will result from the lack of just and discriminating instruction. Error sanctifies no one. The effect of it even on the minds of true Christians is to mar their piety; to dim its lustre; and to darken their minds. No Christian can enjoy religion except under the full-orbed shining of the word of truth; and every man, therefore, who gives false instruction, is responsible for all the darkness he causes, and for all the lack of comfort which true Christians under his teaching may experience.
(4) every person must give an account of the nature of his instructions; and he should therefore “take heed to himself, and his doctrine” 1Ti_4:16; and preach “such” doctrine as shall bear the test of the great Day. And from this we learn, that it is important that the church should be built on the true foundation; and that it is scarcely less important that it should be built up in the knowledge of the truth. Vast evils are constantly occurring in the church for the lack of proper instruction to young converts. Many seem to feel that provided the foundation be well laid, that is all that is needed. But the grand thing which is needed at the present time, is, that those who are converted should, as soon as possible, be instructed fully in the nature of the religion which they have embraced. What would be thought of a farmer who should plant a tree, and never water or trim it; who should plant his seed, and never cultivate the grain as it springs up; who should sow his fields, and then think that all is well, and leave it to be overrun with weeds and thorns? Piety is often stunted, its early shootings blighted, its rapid growth checked, for the lack of early culture in the church. And perhaps there is no one thing in which ministers more frequently fail than in regard to the culture which ought to be bestowed upon those who are converted – especially in early life. Our Saviour’s views on this were expressed in the admonition to Peter, “Feed my lambs,” Joh_21:15.
16.Know ye not,etc.Having admonished the teachers as to their duty, he now addresses himself to the pupils — that they, too, may take heed to themselves. To the teachers he had said, “You are the master-builders of the house of God.” He now says to the people, “You are the temples of God.It is your part, therefore, to take care that you be not, in any way defiled.” Now, the design is, that they may not prostitute themselves to the service of men. He confers upon them distinguished honor in speaking thus, but it is in order that they may be made the more reprehensible; for, as God has set them apart as a temple to himself, he has at the same time appointed them to be guardians of his temple. It is sacrilege, then, if they give themselves up to the service of men. He speaks of all of them collectively as being one temple of God; for every believer is a living stone, (1Pe_2:5,) for the rearing up of the building of God. At the same time they also, in some cases, individually receive the name of temples. We shall find him a little afterwards (1Co_6:19 ) repeating the same sentiment, but for another purpose. For in that passage he treats of chastity; but here, on the other hand, he exhorts them to have their faith resting on the obedience of Christ alone. The interrogation gives additional emphasis; for he indirectly intimates, that he speaks to them of a thing that they knew, while he appeals to them as witnesses.
And the Spirit of God.Here we have the reason why they are the temple of God. Hence and must be understood as meaning because. This is customary, as in the words of the poet — “Thou hadst heard it, and it had been reported.” “For this reason,” says he, “are ye the temples of God, because He dwells in you by his Spirit; for no unclean place can be the habitation of God.” In this passage we have an explicit testimony for maintaining the divinity of the Holy Spirit. For if he were a creature, or merely a gift, he would not make us temples of God, by dwelling in us. At the same time we learn, in what manner God communicates himself to us, and by what tie we are bound to him — when he pours down upon us the influence of his Spirit.
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
Know ye not — It is no new thing I tell you, in calling you “God’s building”; ye know and ought to remember, ye are the noblest kind of building, “the temple of God.”
ye — all Christians form together one vast temple. The expression is not, “ye are temples,” but “ye are the temple” collectively, and “lively stones” (1Pe_2:5) individually.
God … Spirit — God’s indwelling, and that of the Holy Spirit, are one; therefore the Holy Spirit is God. No literal “temple” is recognized by the New Testament in the Christian Church. The only one is the spiritual temple, the whole body of believing worshippers in which the Holy Spirit dwells (1Co_6:19; Joh_4:23, Joh_4:24). The synagogue, not the temple, was the model of the Christian house of worship. The temple was the house of sacrifice, rather than of prayer. Prayers in the temple were silent and individual (Luk_1:10; Luk_18:10-13), not joint and public, nor with reading of Scripture, as in the synagogue. The temple, as the name means (from a Greek root “to dwell”), was the earthly dwelling-place of God, where alone He put His name. The synagogue (as the name means an assembly) was the place for assembling men. God now too has His earthly temple, not one of wood and stone, but the congregation of believers, the “living stones” on the “spiritual house.” Believers are all spiritual priests in it. Jesus Christ, our High Priest, has the only literal priesthood (Mal_1:11; Mat_18:20; 1Pe_2:5) [Vitringa].
Know ye not … – The apostle here carries forward and completes the figure which he had commenced in regard to Christians. His illustrations had been drawn from architecture; and he here proceeds to say that Christians are that building (see 1Co_3:9): that they were the sacred temple which God had reared; and that, therefore, they should be pure and holy. This is a practical application of what he had been before saying.
Ye are the temple of God – This is to be understood of the community of Christians, or of the church, as being the place where God dwells on the earth. The idea is derived from the mode of speaking among the Jews, where they are said often in the Old Testament to be the temple and the habitation of God. And the allusion is probably to the fact that God dwelt by a visible symbol – “the Shechinah” – in the temple, and that His abode was there. As He dwelt there among the Jews; as He had there a temple – a dwelling place, so he dwells among Christians. they are His temple, the place of His abode. His residence is with them; and He is in their midst. This figure the apostle Paul several times uses, 1Co_6:19; 2Co_6:16; Eph_2:20-22. A great many passages have been quoted by Eisner and Wetstein, in which a virtuous mind is represented as the temple of God, and in which the obligation to preserve that inviolate and unpolluted is enforced. The figure is a beautiful one, and very impressive. A temple was an edifice erected to the service of God. The temple at Jerusalem was not only most magnificent, but was regarded as most sacred:
(1) From the fact that it was devoted to his service; and,
(2) From the fact that it was the special residence of Yahweh.
Among the pagan also, temples were regarded as sacred. They were supposed to be inhabited by the divinity to whom they were dedicated. They were regarded, as inviolable. Those who took refuge there were safe. It was a crime of the highest degree to violate a temple, or to tear a fugitive who had sought protection there from the altar. So the apostle says of the Christian community. They were regarded as his temple – God dwelt among them – and they should regard themselves as holy, and as consecrated to his service. And so it is regarded as a species of sacrilege to violate the temple, and to devote it to other uses, 1Co_6:19; see 1Co_3:17.
And that the Spirit of God – The Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity. This is conclusively proved by 1Co_6:19, where he is called “the Holy Ghost.”
Dwelleth in you – As God dwelt formerly in the tabernacle, and afterward in the temple, so His Spirit now dwells among Christians – This cannot mean:
(1) That the Holy Spirit is “personally united” to Christians, so as to form a personal union; or,
(2) That there is to Christians any communication of his nature or personal qualities; or,
(3) That there is any union of “essence,” or “nature” with them, for God is present in all places, and can, as God, be no more present at one place than at another.
The only sense in which he can be especially present in any place is by His “influence,” or “agency.” And the idea is one which denotes agency, influence, favor, special regard; and in that sense only can he be present with his church. The expression must mean:
(1) That the church is the seat of His operations, the field or abode on which He acts on earth;
(2) That His influences are there, producing the appropriate effects of His agency, love, joy, peace, long-suffering, etc.; Gal_5:22-23;
(3) that He produces consolations there, that he sustains and guides His people;
(4) That they are regarded as dedicated or consecrated to Him;
(5) That they are especially dear to Him – that He loves them, and thus makes His abode with them. See the note at Joh_14:23.
(“These words import the actual presence and inhabitation of the Spirit himself. The fact is plainly attested, but it is mysterious, and cannot be distinctly explained. In respect of His essence, He is as much present with unbelievers as with believers. His dwelling in the latter must therefore signify, that He manifests himself, in their souls, in a special manner; that He exerts there His gracious power, and produces effects which other people do not experience – We may illustrate His presence with them, as distinguished from His presence with people in general, by supposing the vegetative power of the earth to produce, in the surrounding regions, only common and worthless plants, but to throw out, in a select spot, all the riches and beauty of a cultivated garden” – Dick’s Theology, Vol. III. p. 287.)
17.If any man corrupts the temple of God.He subjoins a dreadful threatening — that, as the temple of God ought to be inviolably sacred, that man, whoever he may be, that corrupts it, will not pass with impunity. The kind of profanation of which he now speaks, is, when men intrude themselves, so as to bear rule in the Church in the place of God. For as that faith, which is devoted to the pure doctrine of Christ, is called elsewhere spiritual chastity, (2Co_11:2,) so it also sanctifies our souls for the right and pure worship of God. For as soon as we are tinctured with the contrivances of men, the temple of God is polluted, as it were, with filth, because the sacrifice of faith, which he claims for himself alone, is in that case offered to creatures.
If any man defile the temple – This clause is not consistently translated. Ει τις τον ναον του Θεου φθειρει, φθερει τουτον ὁ Θεος If any man destroy the temple of God, him will God destroy. The verb is the same in both clauses. If any man injure, corrupt, or destroy the Church of God by false doctrine, God will destroy him – will take away his part out of the book of life. This refers to him who wilfully opposes the truth; the erring, mistaken man shall barely escape; but the obstinate opposer shall be destroyed. The former shall be treated leniently; the latter shall have judgment without mercy.
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
If any man defile … – Or, “destroy, corrupt” (φθείρει phtheirei). The Greek word is the same in both parts of the sentence. “If any man ‘destroy’ the temple of God, God shall ‘destroy’ him.” This is presented in the form of an adage or proverb. And the truth here stated is based on the fact that the temple of God was inviolable. That temple was holy; and if any man subsequently destroyed it, it might be presumed that God would destroy him. The figurative sense is, “If any man by his doctrines or precepts shall pursue such a course as tends to destroy the church, God shall severely punish him.
For the temple of God is holy – The temple of God is to be regarded as sacred and inviolable. This was unquestionably the common opinion among the Jews respecting the temple at Jerusalem; and it was the common doctrine of the Gentiles respecting their temples. Sacred places were regarded as inviolable; and this general truth Paul applies to the Christian church in general – Locke supposes that Paul had particular reference here to the false teachers in Corinth. But the expression, “if any man,” is equally applicable to all other false teachers as to him.
Which temple ye are – This proves that though Paul regarded them as lamentably corrupt in some respects, he still regarded them as a true church – as a part of the holy temple of God.
If any … defile … destroy — rather as the Greek verb is the same in both cases, “destroy … destroy.” God repays in kind by a righteous retaliation. The destroyer shall himself be destroyed. As temporal death was the penalty of marring the material temple (Lev_16:2; Dan_5:2, Dan_5:3, Dan_5:30), so eternal death is the penalty of marring the spiritual temple – the Church. The destroyers here (1Co_3:16, 1Co_3:17), are distinct from the unwise or unskillful builders (1Co_3:12, 1Co_3:15); the latter held fast the “foundation” (1Co_3:11), and, therefore, though they lose their work of superstructure and the special reward, yet they are themselves saved; the destroyers, on the contrary, assailed with false teaching the foundation, and so subvert the temple itself, and shall therefore be destroyed. (See on 1Co_3:10), [Estius and Neander]. I think Paul passes here from the teachers to all the members of the Church, who, by profession, are “priests unto God” (Exo_19:6; 1Pe_2:9; Rev_1:6). As the Aaronic priests were doomed to die if they violated the old temple (Exo_28:43), so any Christian who violates the sanctity of the spiritual temple, shall perish eternally (Heb_12:14; Heb_10:26, Heb_10:31).
holy — inviolable (Hab_2:20).
which temple ye are — rather, “the which (that is, holy) are ye” [Alford], and, therefore, want of holiness on the part of any of you (or, as Estius, “to tamper with the foundation in teaching you”) is a violation of the temple, which cannot be let to pass with impunity. Grotius supports English Version.
Destroyeth (phtheirei). The outward temple is merely the symbol of God’s presence, the Shechinah (the Glory). God makes his home in the hearts of his people or the church in any given place like Corinth. It is a terrible thing to tear down ruthlessly a church or temple of God like an earthquake that shatters a building in ruins. This old verb phtheirō means to corrupt, to deprave, to destroy. It is a gross sin to be a church-wrecker. There are actually a few preachers who leave behind them ruin like a tornado in their path.
Him shall God destroy (phtherei touton ho theos). There is a solemn repetition of the same verb in the future active indicative. The condition is the first class and is assumed to be true. Then the punishment is certain and equally effective. The church-wrecker God will wreck. What does Paul mean by “will destroy”? Does he mean punishment here or hereafter? May it not be both? Certainly he does not mean annihilation of the man’s soul, though it may well include eternal punishment. There is warning enough here to make every pastor pause before he tears a church to pieces in order to vindicate himself.
Holy (hagios). Hence deserves reverential treatment. It is not the building or house of which Paul speaks as “the sanctuary of God” (ton naon tou theou), but the spiritual organization or organism of God’s people in whom God dwells, “which temple ye are” (hoitines este humeis). The qualitative relative pronoun hoitines is plural to agree with humeis (ye) and refers to the holy temple just mentioned. The Corinthians themselves in their angry disputes had forgotten their holy heritage and calling, though this failing was no excuse for the ringleaders who had led them on. In 1Co_6:19 Paul reminds the Corinthians again that the body is the temple (naos, sanctuary) of the Holy Spirit, which fact they had forgotten in their immoralities.